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Damen invests on autonomous ship technology and collision avoidance

Damen invests on autonomous ship technology and collision avoidance

Toine Cleophas (Manager Research, Damen Shipyards Gorinchem), Frank Relou (European Business Development Manager, Sea Machines), Michiel Louwerse (Program Manager Sustainability, Damen Shipyards Gorinchem) / Credit: Damen

Dutch shipbuilder, Damen Shipyard, and US-based startup, Sea Machines Robotics, signed an alliance agreement to further investigate the adoption of collision avoidance functionality onboard Damen ships. The alliance aims at speeding up the adoption of several navigating technologies to increase autonomy levels on Damen-built vessels.

The move builds on the continuous investments of Damen in autonomous shipping technologies for the past four years and the participation in several joint industry projects to research the readiness level of technologies.

Under this alliance, Damen will be the first to adopt the Sea Machines SM300 autonomous-command and remote-helm control technology in its test environment, which will enable it 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 onboard.

At Damen we don’t so much see autonomous ships as unmanned ‘ghost’ vessels, ploughing the oceans in silence. 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 full 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,

…Toine Cleophas, manage programs at Damen, said.

As explained, the Sea Machine collision avoidance 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 COLREG. 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.

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. We see a future, where most, if not all, newly constructed vessels will feature autonomous technology as standard,

…said Sea Machines’ CEO Michael G. Johnson.