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  • 2022 January 12

    Ildar Mirgiyazov, master of an autonomous ship: “The crew feels optimistic about the future”

    Ildar Mirgiyazov. Photo contributed by Ildar Mirgiyazov

    FSUE Rosmorport is holding remote control and autonomous navigation tests on its hopper barge Rabochaya. Ildar Mirgiyazov, master of the ship and captain-instructor of Rosmorport’s Taman Department, tells IAA PortNews about the practical side of the tests, the system failures revealed, prospects and friendliness of the technology.

    - Mr. Mirgiyazov, tell about your previous maritime experience and the beginning of your work on the Rabochaya

    - My career began in the Navy. Then, after retraining, I worked for 16 years for the vessel traffic control system of port Kavkaz after which I became a captain-instructor.

    My work on the Rabochaya barge started two years and a half ago with the beginning of the experiment on remote control and autonomous navigation.

    - Where is your work place located and what does it look like? How is the work process arranged?

    - My work place is on dredger Redut, on its dredging bridge equipped with five monitors for observation, three monitors for control, a joystick and a keyboard. There is a server installed on the dredger and two servers installed on the barge. The Rabochaya is fitted with cameras, thermal cameras, radars and other equipment needed for its remote control.

    The work process includes the movement of the barge to the dredger for loading with the dredged material following which the barge delivers the soil to the deposit area.

     - Is it difficult to handle this new equipment? How were you trained?

    - I was trained in the course of operation while working together with the representative of the equipment supplier, SITRONICS KT, JSC. Since it is a new system, I would say both of us were training. As for the challenges, this system control is less of a problem for an experienced vessel master who can get familiar with it quite quickly.

    - Were there any failures or disconnections with the barge? How crucial were they?

    Photo contributed by Ildar Mirgiyazov

    - Yes, we had some cases of communication loss in certain areas. We still have some problems with data exchange between the dredger and the barge although they cannot be referred to as crucial ones. Communication loss was only for few seconds which was not a problem given the rate of operation. 

    The tests revealed some faults of the mathematical model applied in the autonomous navigation system for nearest approach calculation. However, it should be noted that the system is permanently improving in the course of pilot operation. The faults revealed are eliminated. After all, it is a pilot project. Now, with application of satellite communication technology, data-transmission channel between the dredger and the barge is more stable.

    - What is your general opinion about this technology from a professional point of view? Is it user-friendly?

    - The crew is optimistic about the future since they see the potential of this technology. Apart from remotely controlled operation, the barge will be later able to move in an autonomous mode. Today, we can already set certain parameters of movement, such as a route and a schedule. Autonomous navigation system analyzes the vessel’s movement on the route and offers options for passing objects or other vessels observed on the route. Thus, at this phase the system does not undertake any passage maneuvers independently but functions as a system of assistance in decision-making, offers solutions which can be approved or disapproved by a master. Basing on a specific case, I can say that the system offered options for passing five vessels simultaneously. So, such a technology has the future, of course.

    - Are you looking into taking part in programmes on training masters of remotely controlled and autonomous ships which Russian University of Transport launches in 2022?

    - If invited, I will be happy to share my experience.

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Vitaliy Chernov