Kotug International has passed a new milestone in autonomous vessel navigation with a successful demonstration using a training harbour tug
The Dutch maritime services group and tug owner trialled software that autonomously pilots an unmanned vessel in a busy port environment.
Kotug worked with ship design company Rotortug (RT) and technology provider Captain AI to test smart navigation on RT Borkum training tug in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
This became the first vessel in the world to autonomously sail the most optimal route. This is seen as a significant milestone on the voyage towards fully autonomous and sustainable shipping.
RT Borkum was autonomously sailed on the river Nieuwe Maas in Rotterdam using the Captain AI route planner and autopilot. This was demonstrated without human intervention during the Netherlands Forum for Smart Shipping.
“The route planner can be seen as the Google Maps for waterways,” said Captain AI’s Vincent Wegener. “It calculates the route, which the boat then autonomously sails, using our autopilot software,” he said.
Kotug general manager Patrick Everts explained the process further and links to other software. “The digital captain has to know what the vessel’s destination is and how to get there in the most efficient way,” he said.
“Linking Captain AI’s software to OptiPort is not only making the skipper’s life easier because vessels can autonomously navigate the optimal route, but is also saving on fuel and CO2 emissions,” Mr Everts added. He is also general manager of Tug Training & Consultancy and OptiPort.
Kotug and Captain AI have partnered to further develop and commercialise the software. They consider the next step is making the software suitable for large-scale applications and to explore matters such as safety and legislation, in consultation with the users and legislators.
RT Borkum has completed several successful operational tests in the busiest port of Europe, proving for the first time that autonomous planning followed by autonomous sailing works in practice, said Kotug.
Since 2018, Kotug has used RT Borkum for training tug masters and testing new technology. In 2018, Kotug demonstrated remote operation of this tugboat in the port of Rotterdam from Marseille, France. For that achievement, it won a Riviera Maritime Media Marine Propulsion innovation award in 2019.
Autonomous and smart navigation, tug technology and optimised scheduling were dicussed during Riviera Maritime Media’s webinars during Q3 2020 - use this link to access these webinars in the library. Optimised tug operations and other autonomous navigation technology will be presented in the upcoming Smart Tug Operations Virtual Conference on 1 December - use this link for more details and to register for this day-long event