A new port tug for Seattle-based Foss Maritime will be the first ship of its kind in the United States to use autonomous systems in real business operations.
Foss Maritime has selected Sea Machines Robotics’ SM300 autonomous command and control system for use aboard its Rachael Allen tug, the fourth of several new ASD-90 tugs currently under construction at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland, Washington . The newly built 90-ton bollard tug is expected to be delivered in May and used at Foss Maritime in California, where it provides tanker escorts and ship assistants.
While the Rachael Allen is delivered with the SM300 system and all fully integrated hardware, the performance of the technology is gradually activated within six to nine months in order to ensure full visibility and acceptance of all operational stakeholders for marine machines. The functions of the SM300 system include transit autonomy as well as remote access to the tug’s on-board machines – a feature that allows staff to manage and support operations from anywhere on board the ship or from the coast. Functions for detecting and avoiding navigation obstacles are standard on the SM300, which further reduces the risk to the crew during operations at sea.
Foss will use the existing staff at the Fleet Monitoring Center to monitor the systems and operating area of the tugboat via streaming video and sensor data.
“Foss leverages Sea Machines’ leading-edge technology to take care of the routine work and allow the crew to focus on higher-level tasks and improve safety while increasing productivity and efficiency during port operations,” said Will Roberts, President and President of Foss CEO. “Foss prides itself on consistently delivering safe and innovative solutions to its customers, and this is another way to deliver on that promise.”
The project also marks the first installation of an autonomy system by Sea Machines on a ship with more than 5,000 horsepower.
“We are pleased that Foss is using Sea Machines’ proven autonomy systems on its newest boat for routine port operations. While a number of autonomous tug prototype initiatives have been carried out in our space through government innovations in Europe, Japan and Singapore, it is noteworthy that Foss is launching the first commercially funded project in US waters. Our technology has been used aboard merchant ships around the world for nearly three years and is supported by thousands of hours of testing and validation. This is yet another real-life example of how Sea Machines autonomy is changing the way crews work on the water, ”said Michael G. Johnson, Founder and CEO of Sea Machines. “We’re dedicated to our oceans and making sure our systems are accessible and affordable for FOSS and other ship operators.”
Foss and Sea Machines partnered back in 2020 to support Sea Machines’ multi-year Other Transaction (OT) contract through the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) of the US Department of Defense (DOD). During a DIU demonstration in Tacoma in October, Sea Machines and Foss fitted a remote-controlled deck barge to land helicopters and house a scaled gas station for aircraft, surface vessels and supplies on land. With the SM300, operators on land had remote situational awareness and were able to demonstrate the remote control and control capabilities of the ship, its operating systems and the flight deck in a living marine environment.
Rachael Allen is equipped with two MTU Tier 4 engines with an output of 6,866 hp – enough to accompany the largest tankers and container ships that call at ports on the west coast of the USA. The towing equipment consists of a Markey DEPGF-52R winch with 750 feet of 10 “plastic cord at the bow and a Markey DEPC-32 stern winch with a 250 foot 6.5” perimeter line at the stern.