New Foss tug features Sea Machines autonomous system

The technology on Rachael Allen will be phased in 'to ensure full visibility and acceptance'

(SEATTLE) – Foss Maritime has selected Sea Machines Robotics’ SM300 autonomous command and control system for use aboard its tugboat Rachael Allen, the fourth in a series of ASD-90 tugs from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland, Wash. Delivering in May 2021, the newly built 90-ton bollard pull Rachael Allen will be the first U.S.-flag harbor tug to integrate autonomous systems in real-world commercial operations. The project also marks Sea Machines’ first installation of an autonomy system on a vessel over 5,000 horsepower. Once delivered, the tugboat will be deployed to Foss Maritime in California, where it will provide tanker escort and ship assists.

Across all industries, autonomous technologies streamline manual, repetitive and tedious tasks, allowing personnel to focus on higher-level operations with reduced risk. Specific SM300 capabilities include transit autonomy, as well as remote access of the tugboat’s onboard machinery – a feature that allows personnel to manage and support operations from anywhere on board the vessel or from shore. Navigation obstacle detection and avoidance capabilities come standard with the SM300, further reducing risk for crew during at-sea operations.

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Foss’ Leisa Florence, sister vessel of Rachael Allen. Foss Maritime photo

While Rachael Allen will be delivered with the SM300 and supporting hardware fully integrated into the vessel, the capability of the technology will be activated in phases over the course of six to nine months to ensure full visibility and acceptance from all operational stakeholders.

Capitalizing on Sea Machines’ remote command and control capabilities, Foss will use its existing Fleet Monitoring Center personnel to monitor the tugboat’s systems and operating domain via streaming video and sensor data. By having an extra set of eyes and hands with access to vessel command and control, the Sea Machines system allows Foss and the crew of Rachael Allen to maximize productive time, safety and crew welfare.

This collaboration is not the first for the two companies. In 2020, Sea Machines and Foss teamed up in support of the company’s multi-year other transaction (OT) agreement by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). During an October DIU demonstration in Tacoma, Wash., Sea Machines and Foss outfitted a remotely commanded deck barge to land helicopters and host a scaled fueling station for aircraft, surface vessels and shore replenishment. Using the SM300, shoreside operators had remote situational awareness and were able to demonstrate the capabilities of remote command and control of the vessel, its operating systems and flight deck in a live marine environment.

Rachael Allen is outfitted with two MTU Tier 4 engines, producing 6,866 horsepower – enough to escort the largest tankers and containerships calling the U.S. West Coast ports that it will serve. Towing equipment consists of a Markey DEPGF-52R winch with 750 feet of 10-inch synthetic line on the bow and a Markey DEPC-32 stern winch with 250 feet of 6.5-inch circumference line on the stern.

– Sea Machines Robotics

Categories: Shipbuilding, Tugboats & Towing