An alliance between Damen Shipyards and Sea Machines Robotics will accelerate the adoption of autonomous navigation technologies on vessels and workboats
Together, they will develop more collision avoidance functionality on board Damen-built vessels. This agreement follows Damen’s participation in several joint industry projects to research the readiness level of technologies. This partnership with Boston, US-based Sea Machines is seen as taking this to the next level, to speed up the adoption of several navigating technologies to increase autonomy levels on Damen-built vessels.
“This alliance will play an important role towards the realisation of Damen’s strategy, which is built on the continual development of digitalisation, sustainability and operational excellence of Damen products and services,” said Damen project manager Toine Cleophas.
“This collaboration forms a part of Damen’s Smart Ship research and development programme and will increase customer value by supporting a more digitalised Damen portfolio.”
Netherlands-headquartered Damen is a leading builder of tugs, offshore support vessels for oil and gas and renewables sectors, dredgers and naval vessels. Its first step in this alliance is to adopt Sea Machines’ SM300 autonomous-command and remote-helm control technology in its test environment, to allow it to predict the integration complexity and system performance on any kind of Damen vessel.
Damen then intends to adopt SM300 in software models and digital twins of ships to demonstrate the benefits of autonomous technology before it is installed on board.
Mr Toine admits autonomous navigation technology is unlikely to result in fully unmanned vessels, but there are clear potential operational benefits. “We do not see autonomous ships as unmanned ghost vessels, ploughing the oceans in silence,” he said. “We foresee ships where a number of tasks are automated, allowing crew to have a more focused approached to those tasks that still require the human element, such as when the vessel arrives in the port.”
SM300 puts the navigator in a supervisory role, allowing them to multitask, or even rest, while the vessel sails its route and avoids collisions based on IMO’s international collision regulations.
“In some situations, a full autonomous ship may be required, in other cases only parts of the activities will be automated to support the onboard crew, thereby increasing safety and efficiency,” said Mr Toine.
SM300 uses multiple sensors, such as radar and cameras, and combines this with machine-learning algorithms. It uses artificial intelligence to recognise objects and manoeuvre a vessel safely to its destination.
“The Damen-Sea Machines alliance sends a clear signal to the industry that autonomous marine technology is rapidly gaining adoption and is in demand among commercial operators,” said Sea Machines chief executive Michael Johnson.
“We see a future, where most, if not all, newly constructed vessels will feature autonomous technology as standard. This partnership will accelerate Sea Machines’ position as the ‘go-to’ provider of advanced marine technology and is securing Damen as an innovative industry leader for years to come.”
Damen will continue with its internal Smart Ship programme, which includes implementing Damen Triton on vessels. This is already creating a data connection between ship and shore for data analytics to monitor the performance and condition of onboard systems.
Damen’s Triton will be a linking pin between onboard autonomous technology, onshore monitoring and data analytics under the Sea Machines co-operation.
At the alliance signing ceremony, present were Mr Toine, Damen Shipyards program manager for sustainability Michiel Louwerse and Sea Machines European business development manager Frank Relou.
Autonomous vessel, communications and IT technologies will be discussed during Riviera’s series of virtual conferences and webinars during 2021 - use this link to access more details and register for these events