Sea trials for first commercial autonomous ships in Port of Singapore

Initial sea trials successfully completed by Wärtsilä & PSA Marine’s ‘IntelliTug’ project. Credit: Wärtsilä

Initial sea trials were carried out for the first commercial maritime autonomous surface ship (MASS) in the port of Singapore.

The ‘IntelliTug’ project is a joint collaboration between marine equipment manufacturer Wartsila, PSA Marine a harbour and terminal towage operator, Lloyd’s Register, the Technology Centre for Offshore Marine Singapore, and co-funded by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) Maritime Innovation and Technology Fund.

The PSA Polaris, a 27 m harbour tug owned and operated by PSA Marine, was retrofitted with a suite of Wärtsilä technology, including Wartsila’s RS24 near-field high resolution radar and Dynamic Positioning system to enable autonomous navigation. Data collected via the sensors has been ongoing since the start of the sea trials, in September 2019, to develop a collision avoidance algorithm.

The IntelliTug trials verified the tug’s capability to avoid a variety of obstacles, including virtual and real-life moving vessels. A smart navigation system was also developed during the project, jointly with PSA Marine’s tug masters. This system was used to select destinations for the hundreds of test cases carried out, allowing the user to see the routes plotted, with the avoidance of collisions in real time. These trials are part of the MPA’s MASS initiative aiming to accelerate maritime autonomous technologies and capabilities.

“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,” said Thomas Brightwell, SACA software manager, Wärtsilä. “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.”