Damen Shipyards and Sea Machines Robotics will partner to investigate collision avoidance on board of Damen ships. The alliance aims at speeding up the adoption of several navigating technologies to increase autonomy levels on Damen-built vessels.

For the past four years, Damen Shipyards Group has been investing in autonomous shipping technologies. The shipbuilder has participated in several joint industry projects to research the readiness level of technologies. Damen is now entering the next phase by establishing a strategic alliance with the Boston, USA-based company.

Digital twin

By participating in this alliance, Damen will first adopt the Sea Machines SM300 autonomous-command and remote-helm control technology in its test environment. This way it is possible to predict the integration complexity and system performance on any kind of Damen vessel. By adopting this solution in software models, a digital twin of the ship becomes reality and will display the benefits of autonomous technology even before it is installed on board.

‘At Damen we don’t so much see autonomous ships as unmanned “ghost” vessels, ploughing the oceans in silence,’ says Toine Cleophas, Manager Programs at Damen. ‘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 the various activities that take place when the vessel arrives in the port. In some situations, a fully autonomous ship may be required, in other cases only parts of the activities will be automated in order to support the onboard crew, thereby increasing safety and efficiency.’

Autonomous technology as standard

‘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,’ adds Sea Machines’ CEO Michael G. 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.’

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Artificial intelligence based collision avoidance

The Sea Machine collision avoidance system can support the crew in a variety of ways. The SM300 system puts the navigator in a supervisory role, allowing him to multitask or even rest, while the ship sails its route and avoids collisions based on COLREGs.

By using multiple sensors in the system, such as radar and cameras and combining this with machine learning algorithms, the system uses artificial intelligence to recognise objects and manoeuvre the ship safely to its destination.

Triton programme

As this new collaboration gets off the ground, Damen is continuing with its internal Smart Ship programme. A part of this programme, the successful Damen Triton programme is already creating a data connection between ship and shore. Triton provides ship data to a variety of users, with or without data analytics, paving the way for increased efficiency and sustainability in operations.

Also in the cooperation with Sea Machines, the Triton solution will be a linking pin between the onboard autonomous technology, the onshore monitoring and data analytics.

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