Two articulated tug-barge (ATB) units have become the first to operate remote control systems in the US
Boston-headquartered Sea Machines Robotics said its Houston-based dealer Rio Controls & Hydraulics has installed its SM200 wireless helm systems on two US-flag ATB tugboats.
In the coming months, Rio and Sea Machines will work together to install SM200 systems on at least five more ATB tugboats for the same unnamed owner.
SM200 wireless helm provides flexible control for mariners, enabling the primary operator to operate a tug away from a fixed control station. It enables wireless propulsion, steering control, management of auxiliaries and payload equipment remotely.
SM200 controls can be used by the navigator outside of the wheelhouse, in locations offering the greatest visibility and safety.
An advantage of using the SM200 aboard an ATB is connecting the tug in the barge notch. Pilots can be in full control of the tugboat and connecting pins with a direct local view of the task, compared to conventional methods that often rely on signals relayed from another crew member to the wheelhouse.
“Improving visibility and operational safety are critical for any operator, but especially so for larger vessels,” said Sea Machines business development and sales director Phil Bourque. “Delivering technology that ensures a crew has the proper visibility to perform their job safely and confidently provides real-world evidence for the value that Sea Machines’ systems can provide.”
Along with vessel manoeuvring, the SM200 belt-pack also enables wireless remote control of vessel equipment, including connection pins, pumps, winches and anchor windlasses. SM200 communicates with Rio’s steering system and controls.
There is a common programmable-logic-controller architecture between Sea Machines and Rio controls for seamless integration.
“The installation process was successful, a statement not made lightly considering the SM200 needed to integrate with the tugboat’s systems, including the steering, propulsion and those of four different manufacturers,” said Rio president Shane Faucheux. “After using the wireless helm, the crew reported they can no longer work without it. We have increased their operational safety by allowing them to put a clear and direct line-of-sight on the tug and barge during high-risk pinnings and dockings,” said Mr Faucheux.
These installations followed approval for SM200 installation aboard this ATB-class of US-flag tugboats in 2020 by the US Coast Guard and ABS.
Following its installation, Sea Machines and Rio provided onboard training to crew, helping them to become familiar with the wireless control technology.
Sea Machines has developed SM200 and SM300 systems for remote control of various vessels, including fireboats, survey workboats, spill-response vessels, security and patrol boats, search-and-rescue craft, offshore wind support vessels and aquaculture workboats.
Remote control and vessel navigation technologies will be discussed during Riviera Maritime Media’s series of virtual webinars, forums, conferences and technology days in 2021 - use this link for more details of these virtual events and to register on the events page