The US-based tug owner is installing Sea Machines Robotics’ SM300 autonomous command unit on its latest newbuild azimuth stern drive tugboat, Rachael Allen
Nichols Brothers Boat Builders built this 3,730-kW tug as part of Foss’ ASD-90 series with bollard pull of around 90 tonnes. When delivered later this month, it will be the first US-flagged harbour tug to have integrated autonomous systems on board.
Foss said Rachael Allen would be mobilised to California to provide tanker escort and ship assistance in ports.
It is installing SM300 for its ability to autonomously navigate the tug during transits and to remotely access the tugboat’s onboard machinery, enabling personnel to manage and support operations from anywhere on board the vessel or from shore.
Foss will use its existing Fleet Monitoring Center personnel to remotely monitor the tug’s systems and operating domain via streaming video and sensor data.
Foss, which is part of the Saltchuk Marine family of companies, intends to activate SM300’s functions in stepped phases after the tug’s delivery. This will be done over six to nine months to ensure full visibility and acceptance of the autonomous and remote access capabilities from all operational stakeholders.
“We are leveraging Sea Machines’ cutting-edge technology to take on the routine work and allow crew to focus on higher-level tasks and improve safety, while also increasing productivity and efficiency during harbour operations,” said Foss president and chief executive Will Roberts. “This is one more way we are delivering on our promise to always offer customers safe and innovative solutions.”
Rachael Allen is the fourth tug in this ASD-90 series, with the first two delivered in 2020 – Jamie Ann and Sarah Averick – and the third tugboat, Leisa Florence, delivered earlier this year. They are all outfitted with two Rolls-Royce’s MTU engines, each compliant with US Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 4 emissions requirements.
These produce 5,120 kW of power, enough to escort the largest tankers and container ships calling at US west coast ports.
Markey-supplied towing equipment includes a DEPGF-52R winch with 228-m of 10-in synthetic line on the bow and a DEPC-32 stern winch with 76 m of 6.5-inch circumference line on the stern.
This collaboration is not the first for Foss and Sea Machines, as in 2020 they partnered to support the US Department of Defense’s innovation unit’s demonstration of remotely commanded deck barges.
Sea Machines is working with another tugboat owner to implement its technology. Two articulated tug-barge (ATB) units have become the first to operate remote control systems in the US. Sea Machines’ Houston-based dealer Rio Controls & Hydraulics has installed SM200 wireless helm systems on the two US-flag ATB tugs.
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.
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