Autonomous tug completes sea trials in Singapore

Wärtsilä and PSA Marine report that they have successfully completed initial sea trials for the ‘IntelliTug’ project in Singapore, which have been underway on the PSA Polaris, a harbour tug owned and operated by PSA Marine, since September 2019.

The project is a collaboration between Wärtsilä, PSA Marine, Lloyd’s Register and the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine Singapore (TCOMS), and is co-funded by Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) Maritime Innovation and Technology (MINT) Fund.

The trials set out to verify the IntelliTug’s capability to avoid a variety of obstacles while autonomously navigating, including virtual and real-life moving vessels, and represent Singapore’s first project testing commercial Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) within the MPA MASS regulatory sandbox, which has been established to facilitate the testing of autonomous technologies within the Port of Singapore.

“It is critical that we prepare the Port of Singapore for MASS. With MPA’s MASS regulatory sandbox, I am glad that Singapore can contribute to the sea trials and eventual adoption of MASS. We will be happy to share our MASS experience with other ports and coastal administrations,” said Captain M Segar, Assistant Chief Executive (Operations) at MPA.

The PSA Polaris is a 27-metre harbour tug with dual azimuth thruster controls. It has been fitted with a package of sensors by Wärtsilä to enable autonomous capabilities, including high resolution radar and Dynamic Positioning (DP). Data collection via the sensors has been ongoing since the start of the project, and is used to power a specially developed collision avoidance algorithm.

During the sea trials, a new smart navigation system – which was 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 navigates the vessel along the route at varying speeds up to 10 knots. These manoeuvres are expected to follow set behaviours and meet a series of success criteria en route to the destination.

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

“PSA Marine is constantly innovating to redefine the capabilities of our tugs. The achievement seen in the IntelliTug project is a testament that, with strong partnership, alignment of purpose and the courage to innovate, ideas can be turned into reality,” said Peter Chew, Managing Director of PSA Marine.

“With the incorporation of feedback and experience from our tug masters, the smart technology developed in the IntelliTug project augments our tug masters’ situational awareness and amplifies their capabilities. We will continue to work closely with the stakeholders and look forward to future developments of the project.”

The project partners say they will continue development work on the IntelliTug and its systems throughout 2020, working towards continuous deployment of smart capabilities in real-life harbour craft operations.

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Rob O'Dwyer

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