Remote pilotage: The future in Finland

The path to remote pilotage will be slow, secure and clean

Finnpilot, the Finnish pilot service for a majority of the country’s ports, is pushing ahead to develop remote pilotage services for select customers.

 

Pilotage services are seen as a crucial safety requirement to help bring vessels into and out of ports and harbours. Many pilots are former masters with significant sea time, and with their unique and detailed knowledge of fairways and local weather and sea conditions, act as advisors to bridge teams.

 

Finnpilot is state-owned and therefore part of the country’s digitalisation framework that includes developing the opportunities for Finnish companies, and includes the efficiencies around smart ships, smart ports and smart freight transportation. The organisation has a number of fast pilot boats, cutters and even ice-going hydrocopters for the months when the country’s waters are ice bound and only accessible with the help of icebreakers.

 

It has been researching the possibilities of remote pilotage services which would reduce the need for pilots to be sent with vessels to board vessels or to leave departing vessels, but enable pilot services to be offered from ashore.

 

Talking at a recent Sea Focus event for maritime and logistics students Finnpilot CEO Kari Kosonen said that there are some key obstacles to resolve before remote pilotage becomes a reality.

Cost will be an issue as there are no commercial reasons for development, but with this being part of the organisation’s long term decarbonisation journey remains worth pursuing.

 

Standards

 

But with any digitalisation the tools, Finnpilot will need to ensure that whatever it does comes standardised. It could be costly to have a system introduced that is not compatible with others, particularly if remote pilotage is successful and extends to other ports

 

The approaches to ports and terminals will have to be smart and there will be the need to have increased information exchange that is reliable, standardised and secure.

 

Digitalisation will require continued work with partners such as vessel traffic services, and other ongoing programmes in Finland like the Sea4Value programme. The Finnish Transport Agency has been driving smart fairway development in the country.

 

Kosonen admitted that while the idea of remote pilotage will help reduce emissions, it will not become a reality across the organisation’s operations before 2030, so in terms of decarbonisation the company is looking for other solutions (and why the company teamed up with the Intelligence Hunt programme to find 

students to offer their ideas).

 

The process of rolling out remote pilotage will be very limited in the beginning, he said, and restricted to key customers initially to ensure there are no risks. Finnpilot has completed the research phase of the project and starting service development

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