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Routeing and collision avoidance support system for ferries

The SAFE Maritime Autonomous Technology (SAFEMATE) project aims to improve ferry safety by developing a fully automated navigation system that can be relied upon to plot a safe course through busy shipping lanes.

Autonomous vessels are seen as being a likely development in the future but the route to their development is not without challenges. Developing a fully automated navigation system that can be relied upon to plot a safe course through busy shipping lanes remains a major barrier to overcome. 


Among the challenges are finding for a way of verifying and assuring autonomous functionality, building trust in autonomous functions through testing and verification, and communicating the system’s reasoning to human operators. Other challenges include ensuring COLREG compliance for automated collision avoidance manoeuvres, measuring and quantifying changes in safety and efficiency when implementing new autonomous functions, and discovering what new risks are introduced when deploying new decision support tools on the bridge. 

Decision support system  

SAFEMATE is focused on developing and evolving a decision support system for safe navigation that can detect obstacles and threats in the marine environment, interpret this information and communicate a routeing solution to the onboard operator. The system is designed to give navigators enhanced situational awareness, including with regard to object detection and collision avoidance, based on images and data gathered from cameras, sensors, radar and the vessel’s automatic identification system (AIS) as well as the human-machine interface. 

A prototype system is now being tested in a pilot on the operational ferry Bastø VI, serving the route between Moss and Horten in Norway. As well as being project administrators, DNV’s role in the four-year project, which has a number of industry participants, is developing an assurance regime necessary to integrate automated navigational decision support systems into bridge systems so as to ensure enhanced safety and efficiency. 

The SAFEMATE project is an important step forward for us in Torghatten and a continuance of the good work we have been doing on the topic of autonomy

  • Jan-Egil Wagnild,
  • CTO,
  • Torghatten AS

The benefits 

SAFEMATE represents an important steppingstone, paving the way for newly developed technology and processes that can ultimately support safe automated navigation. So far, the project has provided valuable learnings through delivery of actionable navigational data from real-life operations that can be used to further develop the system with the aim of wider implementation in the shipping industry in future.  

It will build competence for delivery of class services for autonomous systems in shipping and refine and develop rules and guidelines while developing tooling for the assurance of autonomous systems. DNV is also using the SAFEMATE project to mature its draft guideline for object detection and tracking systems. 

Market potential  
With so much interest globally in autonomous vessel development and operation, there will be a strong demand for assurance and verification services. SAFEMATE will help DNV in establishing a framework of processes and tools that can assess the safety performance of systems during the design stage and in operations and thus help make significant headway in facilitating unmanned vessel operations.