Wartsila and PSA Marine of Singapore has announced the successful completion of the initial sea trials of the first autonomous tug in the port of Singapore, one of the busiest ports in the world. The tug is being developed under the IntelliTug project promoted by Wärtsilä, marine services provider PSA Marine, classification society Lloyd’s Register, the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine Singapore (TCOMS), and co-funded by Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) Maritime Innovation and Technology (MINT) Fund.

The IntelliTug project comprises the retrofitment of a suite of Wärtsilä technology to enable autonomous navigation onboard the PSA marine tug PSA Polaris. The PSA Polaris is a 27-metre harbour tug with dual azimuth thruster controls. It has been fitted with a sensor suite, including Wärtsilä’s RS24 near-field high resolution radar and Wärtsilä’s Dynamic Positioning (DP) system, to enable autonomous capabilities.

The trials commenced in September 2019 and involved verification of the IntelliTug’s capability to avoid a variety of obstacles, including virtual and real-life moving vessels. The trials have been conducted using the MPA Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) regulatory sandbox. The sandbox has been established to facilitate the testing of MASS and other autonomous technologies in a safe and controlled environment within the Port of Singapore. These trials are part of MPA’s initiative, for accelerating the industry’s R&D capability in this field, and to validate new MASS-related concepts of operations and technologies.

Data collection from the PSA Polaris sensor suite has been ongoing since the start of the project. This has been done in conjunction with the development of a collision avoidance algorithm. The project aims to develop and field-test intelligent vessel capabilities as also viable means to operate harbour tugs in a smarter, safer, and more efficient way.The technology developed is human-centric, incorporating design-thinking, and man–machine collaboration.

System integration and digital testing was started using Wärtsilä’s autonomous ship simulator. A digital twin of the PSA Polaris was created and TCOMS carried out validation of the various data gathered from the sensor suite, as well as real-world performance of the tug. These assessments included the effects of the physical environment faced in the sea trials. Lloyd’s Register has been closely involved throughout the project to support the development of the trials’ safety case, while collaborating on the human factors and technology design processes.

A new smart navigation system developed duirng the project with inputs from PSA Marine’s Tug Masters was used during the sea trials to select destinations for the hundreds of test cases carried out. This system allows the user to easily see the routes plotted, with the avoidance of collisions, in real-time. The smart navigation system also sends track and speed commands to the DP system, which drives the vessel along the route safely at varying speeds up to 10 knots. These manoeuvres are expected to follow set behaviours and meet success criteria to reach the destination. At all times during the sea trials, PSA Marine’s Tug Masters were able to determine if the tests were safe to continue. They also had full control to abort trials at any time where required.