Laura Bassi and Valmet: exploring better data management

Apr 12, 2024

Laura Bassi was a female pioneer in higher scientific education. Valmet supplied its Industrial Internet to the scientific vessel that now bears her name to collect data into Valmet’s cloud – reliably and with the highest level of cybersecurity – as the ship researches global warming in the polar regions.

The research vessel Laura Bassi is equipped with Valmet's automation system and analytics tools.

Laura Bassi, formerly known as the Polar Queen, is now owned by the Italian National Institute for Oceanography and Applied Geophysics (OGS) and serves as the only Italian-flagged ship with Polar Code certification.

Dedicated to researching global warming in polar areas, the vessel operates as part of the National Antarctic Research Program (PNRA). Each austral summer, Laura Bassi resupplies the Italian base in the Ross Sea in Antarctica and conducts scientific research activities focused on climate change. For instance, the vessel transports ice samples drilled from the ice cap, enabling scientists to reconstruct the climate of the past 1.5 million years.

In February 2023, Laura Bassi achieved a new milestone by sailing farther south in Antarctica than any other ship before.

OGS selects Valmet for retrofit

After acquisition, OGS selected Valmet in 2021 to retrofit the vessel with an automation upgrade, since its existing automation platform was obsolete. OGS asked Valmet to plan to upgrade the ship one step at a time, enabling the vessel to continue its missions.

The first step, was to replace the top automation level, including the operator station, process station and network, and to install the Valmet DNA automation system
In the second step, Valmet continued by replacing the fieldbus and retrofitting all I/Os with the latest generation. Now the ship’s system is fully based on Valmet DNA.

Upgrading to the digital era

In the summer of 2023, OGS decided to complement the Valmet DNA automation system with the Valmet Industrial Internet (VII) solutions. This upgrade enables the digitalization of the ship’s monitoring resources and facilitates faster data management from both the ship and its research.

To test this out, Valmet implemented the solution on a small scale. Only about 10 people from OGS now have access to the tools to collect information from the vessel into Valmet’s cloud.

"Since the users are scientists, they highly appreciate the fact that they can browse the dashboard and tailor the tool according to their needs," says Giuseppe Tortorici, Sales Manager at Valmet Automation.

Since the users are scientists, they highly appreciate the fact that they can browse the dashboard and tailor the tool according to their needs.

The Valmet Industrial Internet applications continuously evolve, introducing new features. Currently, the crew on Laura Bassi only has access to Valmet’s self-service analytics tools to collect data, analyze it and create dashboards for data visualization.

"The target during this phase is to collect all the information that we can from the ship," continues Janne Koivuniemi, Senior Product Manager at Valmet. "We will then arrange a workshop with OGS to see how VII can be further developed and what additional information would be useful to see on the dashboards."

A perfect approach

The collaboration between Valmet and OGS has gone very smoothly. Mr. Franco Coren, Director of the Center for Naval Infrastructure Management at OGS, says: "Thanks to Valmet’s professional planning and attention to detail, testing, installation and commissioning went according to schedule. The crew did not even realize that the system had been completely rebuilt. For me as a former aircraft pilot, it was a perfect landing thanks to the well-planned approach."

Thanks to Valmet’s professional planning and attention to detail, testing, installation and commissioning went according to schedule.

"Valmet is a reliable supplier. This means a lot to us, as we are constantly fighting against time to resupply our Antarctic base to guarantee the PNRA research activities," he continues.

OGS is pleased with the technology and the service. They appreciate the communication and responsiveness from Valmet and recognize the importance of planning the vessel’s life cycle together to ensure continuous results.

Collecting data at sea

Laura Bassi is putting the Valmet Industrial Internet solutions to use. Valmet’s approach is to provide cloud-based services to its customers’ vessels to boost operational efficiency. For instance, the Laura Bassi crew can continue using the new analytical tools to enhance their research capabilities.

Moreover, the Laura Bassi project uses satellite communications to connect to the cloud.

"We have other similar projects, but those are all land-based," Janne says. "This case is unique in that we are collecting their research information directly from the ship at sea to the Valmet cloud."

Another special aspect is that Valmet replaced all I/Os on board the ship at one time. "That is our daily work on land," Giuseppe adds. "However, projects onboard ships are always more complicated."

Close planning over the ship’s life cycle

Once the workshop occurs later this spring, both parties will have a clearer idea of how to move forward with the collected information.

"The new system also enables remote connection for troubleshooting when sailing in such remote areas, which requires top cybersecurity to ensure safe data transfer," Giuseppe says.

Laura Bassi is again setting a first with a modern, reliable and cybersecure system essential for a vessel sailing in extremely harsh conditions.