March 24 ------ Finnish technology group Wärtsilä and Singapore-based towage services provider PSA Marine have successfully completed initial sea trials for the IntelliTug autonomous ship project. The PSA Polaris, a harbor tug owned and operated by PSA Marine, has been retrofitted with a suite of Wärtsilä technology to enable autonomous navigation. Carried out in Singapore, the trials commenced in September 2019. They verified the IntelliTug’s capability to avoid a variety of obstacles, including virtual and real-life moving vessels. These trials are Singapore’s first for commercial Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) using the MPA MASS regulatory sandbox, which has been established to facilitate the testing of MASS and other autonomous technologies in a safe and controlled environment within the Port of Singapore.
The IntelliTug trials are part of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) MASS initiative which aims to accelerate the industry’s R&D capability in this field and validate new MASS-related concepts of operations and technologies. This would enable technology developers, the research community, and maritime stakeholders to capture future MASS-related opportunities. “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,” Captain M Segar, Assistant Chief Executive (Operations) of MPA, commented.
The PSA Polaris is a 27-metre harbor tug with dual azimuth thruster controls. It has been fitted with a sensor suite, including Wärtsilä’s RS24 near-field high resolution radar and Wärtsilä’s Dynamic Positioning (DP) system, to enable autonomous capabilities. Data collection via the sensors has been ongoing since the start of the project in conjunction with the development of a collision avoidance algorithm. The project is aimed at developing and field-testing intelligent vessel capabilities and viable pathways towards smarter, safer, and more efficient ways of operating a harbor tug. This is achieved through the provision of human-centric technology, design-thinking, and man–machine collaboration. “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,” Peter Chew, Managing Director of PSA Marine Rigorous Testing for Autonomous Development, said.
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 easily 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, 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. The development work on the IntelliTug and its systems will be continued through 2020.