The Helsinki ferry. Photo: ABB

Helsinki ferry serving as remote-control testing platform

The City of Helsinki Economic Development Office served in late November as a test environment for remote-controlled maritime traffic: ABB used the premise to test remote control of the Suomenlinna ferry with success.

With the help of ABB’s remote-control technology, a captain can control more than one vessel from land efficiently and safely. The Suomenlinna II ferry operates all year round in all weather conditions. The ferry is equipped with ABB’s Azipod propulsion system suitable for icebreaking, which ensures operation in winter conditions.

On the evening of 28 November, the ferry travelled on its regular route without a captain on the deck, controlled from a temporary control centre at the Economic Development Office on Unioninkatu. The test was conducted outside the normal service hours, and the crew was on board during the test.

Test carried out successfully

“This breakthrough test is a decisive step forward that helps the maritime sector in the transition towards autonomous vessels,” says Juha Koskela, Managing Director of ABB’s Marine & Ports business unit.

“Autonomous is not synonymous to unmanned. As vessels become electric, digital and connected to the Internet, ABB can optimize the skills of mariners and improve the overall safety of operations by utilizing the solutions of our existing portfolio.”


elsingin kaupungin elinkeino-osasto toimi ABB:n autonomisen meriliikenteen testauksen etäohjauspisteenä 28.11.2018.

The Helsinki Economic Development Office as a remote-control centre for a test of ABB’s autonomous maritime traffic on 28 November 2018

 The Economic Development Office of the Helsinki City Executive Office served in late November as a test environment for autonomous maritime traffic.

Helsinki has a strong concentration of maritime industry

The port of Helsinki is as old as the city. The City of Helsinki port policy is divided into five themes: the archipelago, the port, the maritime industry, Baltic Sea cooperation, and cooperation within the digitalization and startup cluster.

 Helsinki is home to Finland’s largest maritime cluster. About half of the enterprises in the Finnish maritime industry are based in Helsinki, and they employ nearly 20,000 people. Helsinki’s dockyard, which is more than 150 years old, specializes in icebreaking, and it has manufactured more than half of all icebreakers in the world. In addition, Helsinki is the main home base of Finnish shipping companies, and the city is home to the largest concentration of maritime-cluster service providers, such as financing, insurance and legal services. Helsinki’s neighbouring city Espoo is home to Finland’s only university offering maritime studies.

 Helsinki started to develop an intelligent maritime cluster in 2015. The Helsinki region has tens of startups and engineering offices focusing on the maritime industry, and the City of Helsinki gathers them together annually at the Slush conference and other events. The City of Helsinki’s network of intelligent maritime industry actors combines maritime industry and innovative ICT services, the industrial Internet and growth businesses. Examples include utilization of maritime data, autonomous maritime traffic, measuring and monitoring technologies, and maritime control and risk management. The City project supports enterprises in combining their operations and skills as well as in finding customers. One tangible action by the City is the development of intelligent applications in the control of heavy traffic on the Helsinki–Tallinn route at Helsinki’s West Harbour.

 The City of Helsinki organized the first intelligent maritime industry seminar at Slush in 2015. In 2016, the event was bigger and was accompanied by a hackathon. In 2017, after the City-managed Merit Project was closed, the event organization was transferred to Finnish Maritime Industries, and in 2018 the event expanded into a large international seminar. The 2018 event was implemented jointly by the Finnish Ship Owners’ Association, Finnish Maritime Industries, the Finnish Port Association, the Finnish Port Operators’ Association, the foundation for maritime transport (Merenkulun säätiö), Centrum Balticum, Maritime Accelerator, the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, and the City of Helsinki.

Read more:

Breaking Waves
(a seminar held in connection with Slush on 3–4 December 2018)