Real service through virtual reality

Right now, a military operation is combating piracy off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean. Known as Operation Atalanta, it’s the first naval operation organized by the European Union. One of the vessels taking part is the FREMM frigate Carlo Bergamini, which is owned and operated by the Italian Navy.

Recently, the frigate experienced breakdowns of the VDD (Vertical Driving Device) in two of its three MGO separators. Unfortunately, operating the vessel with just one separator wasn’t an option while deployed. The flow rate of one separator is enough to feed the two diesel engines, but not the gas turbine that the vessel needs to reach battle speed.

The issue couldn’t be solved as normal, due to the current travel restrictions affecting our international marine service team. Local engineers from Alfa Laval Middle East in Dubai were prevented from travelling out of the UAE – they couldn’t even leave their city of residence. And while engineers from Alfa Laval Italy were available, no military flights for civilians could be arranged on such short notice.

The solution was providing the Italian Navy with a VR headset, which was shipped to the frigate along with Alfa Laval spare parts. Mark Cutri, one of our Graduated Service Engineers from Alfa Laval Italy, travelled from Genoa to the Italian Navy arsenal in La Spezia, where he provided remote support from a designated workstation. With his guidance in virtual reality, the Chief Engineer’s staff on board were able to repair and restart the two separators.

This use of a VR headset for remote support was a successful pilot, both for Alfa Laval and for the Italian Navy. Above all, it showed just how fast issues can be resolved. After the second breakdown on the 8th of April, we had an approach ready and the headset and parts on the vessel by the 21st. By the 24th, the repairs were completed.

Needless to say, the speed came down to more than technology. It took great collaboration between departments across Alfa Laval, with many online meetings to handle planning, technical issues, spare parts and safety documentation. There are too many names to mention here, but I’m proud of everyone who helped get this vessel back on duty!


Stefano Bottino

Sales Manager

Service Marine

Alfa Laval, Italy

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