Sea Trials Complete for Autonomous Tug in Singapore

alt Image courtesy Wärtsilä

By The Maritime Executive 03-13-2020 09:52:00

The technology group Wärtsilä and Singaporean port services firm PSA Marine have completed their first sea trials for the autonomous “IntelliTug” project. The PSA Polaris, a harbor tug operated by PSA Marine, has been retrofitted with Wärtsilä’s autonomous navigation technology, including a near-field high resolution radar.

The trials commenced in Singapore last September. They verified the tug’s autonomous capability to avoid a variety of obstacles, including virtual and real-life moving vessels. A new smart navigation system – developed during the project in cooperation with PSA Marine’s tug masters – was used to select destinations for the hundreds of test cases carried out. The system allows the user to see the routes plotted, with the avoidance of collisions, in real-time. The smart navigation system also sends track and speed commands to the DP system, which drives the vessel along the route safely at varying speeds up to 10 knots. These maneuvers are expected to follow set behaviors and meet success criteria to reach the destination.

At all times, PSA Marine’s Tug Masters were able to determine if the tests were safe to continue, and they had full control to abort testing at any time if required.

The trials were the first commercial vessel tests in Singapore’s Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) regulatory sandbox, which has been established to facilitate testing of autonomous technologies within the port. Lloyd’s Register has been closely involved throughout the project to support the development of the trials’ safety case, while collaborating on the human factors and technology design processes.

“Wärtsilä has taken a rigorous, staggered approach to the sea trials, first to prove the fundamental safety and accuracy capabilities of the system, and then moving on to real obstacle-free path planning. It has further progressed to more complicated test cases, previously attempted in digital batch testing and digital first-person simulation. The design of the test cases was a collaborative effort involving Tug Masters and a Master Mariner, with close review and continuous refinement with MPA throughout the project,” said Thomas Brightwell, SACA Software Manager for Wärtsilä.

Wärtsilä and PSA Marine plan to continue development work on the IntelliTug and its systems throughout 2020, with an aim to achieve continuous deployment of smart capabilities in real-life operations. The ultimate objective is to deploy a system that complements and enhances the capabilities and experience of human tug masters.