The year was, in many ways, significant in terms of the advancement of remote pilotage. It can be seen as a year that aimed at defining the data and technologies needed to realise remote pilotage, while 2020 will be dedicated to the development of the actual operational process of remote pilotage.
During the year, Finnpilot was contacted by different parties to discuss ways in which we might work together to further advance remote pilotage. Remote pilotage became an interesting area of development for many university-level institutions and companies. It was seen as having more concrete possibilities for implementation in a shorter time period than were generated by earlier plans for automated ships by businesses and university-level institutions.
The single most significant event of the year was the amendment to the Pilotage Act that entered into force on 1 February 2019. The amendment enabled for the use of remote pilotage. The Act defines remote pilotage as an activity where pilots perform their duties without boarding the ship to be piloted. The Act does not, however, take any stand on how the pilot might do this. Instead, the Act stipulates how Finnpilot might apply to Traficom for a remote pilotage permit:
‘An application for a remote pilotage permit shall describe the methods, technology and operating models to be used in remote pilotage, the methods used for securing environmental safety and the safety of vessel traffic and for risk management, the fairways or fairway sections in which remote pilotage is to be used and the staff numbers to be used in remote pilotage, and designate the persons responsible for remote pilotage. The application shall provide the necessary information on remote pilotage and its impacts as well as other aspects significant for assessing the permit application. The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency may request further information related to the matter. The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency issues a remote pilotage permit if the operations meet the requirements of this Act and the provisions issued under it.’ (Section 16b)
On the basis of this section, Finnpilot has steered its own activities and those of its stakeholders in a direction that would ensure the fulfilment of the criteria required to apply for a remote pilotage permit.
During 2019, Finnpilot prepared three research projects that are closely related to remote pilotage. Theses dealing with remote pilotage are also in the works in addition to the research projects or as part of them.
As part of One Sea Autonomous Maritime Ecosystem’s Sea for Value (S4V) research project, Finnpilot pursues risk analyses concerning remote pilotage and the possibility to test new data transmission technologies.
Finnpilot is also a member of the steering group and workshop participant for the Intelligent Shipping Technology Test Laboratory (ISTLAB), a project headed by the Satakunta University of Applied Sciences. In 2019, a rough prototype of a remote pilotage station was established as part of the ISTLAB project. The project provides Finnpilot with information about the use and development of positioning and condition data.
As its third project, Finnpilot has partnered with Finferries and Kongsberg Marine Finland Ltd to work on the MasterSIM simulator development project coordinated by Novia/Aboa Mare. The purpose of the project is to create a remote operation environment that can be connected to an existing ship simulator. The project has already generated descriptions of the different phases of the remote pilotage process.
The intention of the testing and research work carried out within the various projects is to meet all the criteria, in terms of methods, technologies, operational models and risk management, which are necessary in order to apply for the remote pilotage permit. The testing is primarily carried out in the form of simulator exercises, but the goal is to also arrange for practical testing with an actual ship.
The testing will help Finnpilot to determine the specific data that a remote pilot needs, how and when it should be accessible and what types of demands it places, for example, on the data transmission systems. This information is necessary to ensure that, later on, there is a possibility to procure the technologies required for remote pilotage and to further define the service specifications. The risk analyses and performance specifications are extremely important for the systematic assessment of the service’s safety. The groundwork is being carried out within the projects and will continue throughout the permit application process.
The expertise of pilots is necessary for the practical aspects of remote pilotage, such as testing and the drafting of specifications. Technological development is not sufficient on its own. The company must ensure that the remote pilotage process is safe and secured. It is important that the methods and training necessary for the task of remote pilotage be established and tested together with the personnel.
Even though the current aim of the remote pilotage development work is to be able to apply for the remote pilotage permit, the work will benefit Finnpilot even during the process. Through the development work, for example, Finnpilot can access better condition data and more developed weather predictions.
As a whole, Finnpilot benefits from the process descriptions and risk analyses that are being done. They help Finnpilot to better assess whether it has operations that might, in the future, benefit from automation.