Cavotec, ASKO Power Forward on Autonomous, Zero-Emission Fleet

By Mikael Norin

The future of shipping is here, and it will not surprise industry observers to see Norway in the pole position as autonomous vessels enter commercial operations. Norway has long been on the bleeding edge of shipping innovation. In 2015, the world’s first battery electric car ferry entered operation in Norway’s deepest and longest fjord, Sognefjord.

The ferry, MV Ampere, resulted from a government initiative and was a catalyst for innovation in the industry. Now, Norway is expected to equip some 200 additional berths with zero emission technologies before 2025. At Cavotec, we are proud to have been part of this development, supplying MoorMaster automated mooring to some 50 berths and automated charging to around 20 berths to date in Norway alone.

Today, we are on the verge of the next step change in creating a fully autonomous maritime supply chain and a safe and sustainable future. ASKO Maritime, the shipping arm of Norway’s largest grocery chain, is looking to launch the world’s first fully autonomous, electric, carbon-free ships, a move that would replace two million kilometers of truck transport and reduce CO2 emissions by 5,000 tonnes every year.

A key component in ASKO’s plan was a system that could automatically moor ships in port. Ships have relied on ropes and chains to moor since the dawn of navigation. This requires personnel on the ship and on shore. With an unmanned vessel, calling on a fully automated port, there is nobody around to throw ropes and nobody on the quay to catch them.

Cavotec has been developing our automated vacuum mooring technology, MoorMaster, for more than 20 years. Now, we have refined and enhanced the concept with MoorMaster NxG. This next generation vacuum mooring solution has been designed to ease introduction in thousands of ports across the world, speeding the industry’s transition to the future of shipping.

We are extremely excited that ASKO Maritime has selected us to partner on introducing the world’s first autonomous, zero-emission fleet of ships. It is a project that perfectly aligns with our vision for a more efficient, sustainable future: a win-win relationship. For us, there could not be a better launch customer for MoorMaster NxG than ASKO Maritime. For ASKO, the use of MoorMaster NxG means that its ships can shut off their thrusters right after reaching port and thereby consume less energy. This will translate into considerable operational savings and even extend battery lifetime.

  • Watch Mikael Norin, CEO, Cavotec, discuss the ASKO Autonomous, Zero-Emission fleet project on Maritime Reporter TV.

A new era
I believe that in the future, ASKO Maritime’s initiative will be seen as a breakthrough step towards a fully autonomous maritime supply chain. We are poised to see a proliferation of automated and zero emission technologies in the maritime world. At Cavotec, we want to usher in this era, and this has been the impetus behind developing MoorMaster NxG.

A key request from the market, which is reflected in the development of MoorMaster NxG, was to make it easier to implement automated mooring. So faster, smarter, installation was a key consideration for us. We also introduced continuous remote monitoring and maintenance to make it easier for a port to automate the steps to hands free mooring.

We have done all that in a radically reduced footprint – down by 40% in depth on previous designs. There are many container terminals with limited space between the existing quay edge and ship-to-shore cranes. MoorMaster NxG can be installed in these terminals without the need for costly and time-consuming modifications to existing infrastructure. All in all, this has decreased installation times by 50%, and in some cases by up to 90%, in addition to drastically reducing costs.

We are also seeing a growing number of automated mooring applications with public access, such as ferry terminals. An aesthetically pleasing design was therefore important to us. Our engineers have done a fantastic job in creating a beautiful piece of machinery that will fit into any public space.

Photo Courtesy Cavotec

Profitable sustainability
But looks are not everything. Automated mooring must produce real benefits to ports and shipping companies. One of the obvious benefits is time savings. Mooring typically takes between 20 minutes and up to an hour for large cargo ships. It now only takes 30 seconds with MoorMaster NxG. Those saved minutes matter. They allow for faster turnarounds or more time loading or unloading. For shipping companies, every minute saved means ships can cruise at slower speeds to their next destination, thereby saving fuel.

For ports, MoorMaster frees up time and helps ports to make more of every minute. It reduces vessel motion for higher throughout and allows ports to make use of existing infrastructure for larger vessels without expensive modifications.

It all comes down to profitable sustainability. With MoorMaster, operators can improve efficiency and productivity and thereby profitability. Additional benefits include reduced use of fuel and less pollution. Typically, sustainability benefits are viewed as a drag on financial results. But with MoorMaster, ports and shipping companies become more profitable and at the same time contribute to a greener, less polluted world.

An investment in automated mooring is also an investment in the health and safety of people. Conventional mooring – with heavy ropes and chains – is hard, dangerous, manual labor that continues to cause large numbers of injuries and even fatalities every year. With MoorMaster, ships’ crews and quayside personnel can focus on value added activities, such as loading and unloading cargo without literally putting their lives on the line.

I have no doubt the shipping industry will embrace new, safer, more sustainable mooring practices as the rate of innovation picks up throughout the maritime supply chains. At Cavotec, with the MoorMaster NxG, we could not be prouder of being a key enabler of the evolution towards the future of shipping and being a partner of ASKO is a first major step.

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 32,  Nov 2020

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