Remote Operations of Machinery and Automation Systems

Research Review 2018

The ROMAS project aims to establish a framework of regulations, rules and verification methods for remote (shore-based) operations of ship machinery and automation systems, enabling improved operations and cost-efficiency without compromising safety of ship operations.

Fjord1 is in the process of building some 20 new ferries (most of them are fully electric, some are hybrids) to support a green, safe and efficient national transport system. With more of the on-board equipment digitally available and advanced monitoring technologies enabling smarter maintenance, we believe it is possible to introduce remote operations and more data-driven methods for new generations of ferries. The remote operations concept will increase shore-support to each ferry and has the potential to improve both safety and efficiency.

Kim Gunnar Jensen

Project Engineer

Ship owners are currently struggling to recruit competent machinery engineers, as young engineering talent tends to prefer shore-based jobs in other industries. At the same time ships are getting increasingly complex, filled with electronics and data systems and equipped with better ship-shore communication systems than ever before, enabling closer integration with shore-based parties.

The idea behind the ROMAS project is to move the Engine Control Room (ECR) from the ship to a shore-based Engine Control Center (ECC), where competent engineers can operate the propulsion and auxiliary machinery systems on a fleet of vessels. When responsibilities and monitor and control facilities are moved to shore, fewer machinery engineers will be required onboard. With new approaches to design and operations, combined with increased redundancy and more advanced maintenance, one can envisage that the concept could be operated without any machinery engineers onboard at all, thereby providing an essential first step towards unmanned and autonomous ships.

DNV GL is heading the ROMAS Project with project partners Høglund, Fjord1 and Norwegian Maritime Authority. The project, which started in 2017 and will continue to the end of 2019, receives funding from the Norwegian Research Council through the MAROFF program. These are some of activities that have been carried out in the project so far:

  • Business and user requirements incl. development of a CONOPS (Concept of Operations) document.
  • Identification of relevant rules and regulations.
  • Risk considerations: incl. HazID (Hazard Identification) analysis and development of risk model recently presented at the DfS (Design for Safety) conference in Kobe in September.
  • Data analysis: exploring historical data from the IAS (Integrated Automation System) from two of Fjord1’s ferries and combining it with other data sources to get insights about the technical condition of the machinery as well as operational aspects e.g. handling of alarms and unexpected machinery problems.

At the current stage of the project, the focus is on preparing for a pilot test campaign to be carried out with one of Fjord1’s ferries in 1Q of 2019. The pilot ferry “M/F Fannefjord”, built to DNV class in 2010, is a modern and highly redundant LNG/battery/diesel-driven Ro-Ro Ferry operating between Molde and Vestnes.

Høglund Marine Automation is preparing the equipment to be used on the ship and in the ECC (Engine Control Centre) on shore.

Machinery monitoring & control will be centred around Høglund’s existing IAS system, but the remote machinery concept will also require alarm improvements, CCTV surveillance as well as a reliable and redundant communication solution, based on ICE and 4G modems. An ECC prototype is currently set up for testing at Høglund’s location in Tønsberg but will be moved to Fjord1s office in Molde before the pilot testing. The aim of the pilot test campaign is to gather data and experience which can be used to validate assumptions and give inputs to rules development, to ensure a safe commercial deployment of the concept.