Wärtsilä and PSA Marine have completed initial sea trials of a collaborative Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship (MASS) project named the IntelliTug.
The PSA Polaris, a harbor tug owned and operated by PSA Marine, has been retrofitted with Wärtsilä technology that enables a ship to navigate autonomously. Before real-world trials began, digital integration and system testing was carried out using Wärtsilä’s autonomous ship simulator alongside TCOMS, who further validated the ship’s potential using a physics-based digital twin that was subjected to the effects of the physical environment that the vessel was to face during sea trials.
In September 2019, initial sea trials were carried out in the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s MASS regulatory sandbox, a facility specially designed for the safe and controlled testing of MASS and other autonomous technologies. Testing concluded that the IntelliTug was capable of avoiding a variety of obstacles including virtual and real-life moving vessels.
The trials are part of MPA’s MASS initiative, which aims to accelerate research and development into autonomous concepts, technologies and operations. During the tests the vessel used a smart navigation system developed alongside PSA’s Marine Tug Masters. The software allows a user to select a destination, see the route planned and view the avoidance of collisions in real time.
Captain M Segar, assistant chief executive for operations at the MPA, said, “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.”
The PSA Polaris is a 27m tug, equipped with dual azimuth thruster controls, a sensor suite, and Wärtsilä’s RA24 near-field high-resolution radar and dynamic positioning system to enable the vessel to carry out autonomous activities. The vessel has been using these sensors since the beginning of the project to collect data to help develop its collision avoidance algorithm.
SACA software manager, Thomas Brightwell of Wärtsilä, said, “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.”
During 2020 Wärtsilä and PSA Marine say they will continue to work toward the deployment of smart capabilities in real-life harbor craft operations.