Thursday, April 26, 2018

Artificial Intelligence Will Help Guide New Generation of Feeder Container Ice Class Vessels

Practical Test Programme Begins with New Cooperation to Move Toward Autonomous Ships
Shipping News Feature
US – DENMARK – EUROPE – Boston-based developer of autonomous vessel technology, Sea Machines Robotics has signed a contract for the Danish shipping giant, AP Moller-Maersk to trial its perception and situational awareness technology aboard one of the new-build 'Winter Palace' series of ice-class container ships of Maersk's subsidiary, Seago Line. Sea Machines Robotics say that the installation marks first time computer vision, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), and perception software will be utilised aboard a container vessel to augment and upgrade transit operations.

The solution chosen by Maersk is the latest in Sea Machines’ portfolio and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to improve at-sea situational awareness, object identification and tracking capabilities. Similar to Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) commonly found in automobiles, which alerts drivers of roadway hazards and prevent accidents, Sea Machines’ system uses advanced sensors to collect a continuous stream of information from a vessel’s environmental surroundings, identify and track potential conflicts, and efficiently display the knowledge in the wheelhouse.

The new system is designed with the facilitation of safer and more efficient maritime operations in mind. Michael Johnson, founder and CEO, Sea Machines, said:

“We are extremely proud that the world’s largest shipping company selected Sea Machines as their advanced perception and autonomous technology provider. This partnership with Maersk marks our first foray into the shipping sector and allows us to positively contribute towards the operator’s technology goals. Our mission is to propel the maritime industry forward with 21st century technology and it’s exciting to see the growing demand for Sea Machines products.”

Maersk says the shipping company’s goal during the collaboration is to prove that the innovative technology aids the seafarers, can remove the line of sight restriction from the bridge and, essentially, provides the infrastructure for a future autonomous collision avoidance system. P. Michael A. Rodey, Senior Innovation Manager, AP Moller-Maersk, commented:

“Our team first met Sea Machines around three years ago when they were developing the concepts of their first autonomous systems, and already we were impressed with their technical capability, planned product path, and practical understanding of the future needs of the marine market. For this containership situational awareness programme, we aim to prove the technology increases our safety, efficiency, and reliability. Autonomous vessels are not an end goal for Maersk nor is unmanned vessels, what is more of interest is the technology along the journey and the value it brings.”

Maersk Line ordered the series of ice-class vessels on behalf of Seago Line in 2015, as part of an investment programme of $15 billion into vessel new building, retrofit programme, containers and other equipment. Seago Line is Maersk’s fully-owned container shipping line dedicated to short-sea services in Europe and throughout the Mediterranean region.

The vessels are designed specifically for operation in winter conditions (down to -25°C). They will replace several container vessels, half the size or less of the new buildings. The company has recently taken delivery of the first in the series of Winter Palace vessels, the 3,596 TEU Vistula Maersk. After successful trials, the vessel is now operating on the feeder connection between The Netherlands and Russia and made her maiden call to Petrolesport and First Container Terminal in St. Petersburg on April 20.

Vistula will shortly be joined by her sister unit Volga Maersk and these vessels will together be the only two to operate on Maersk’s North Europe Feeder Link 1 service. During the coming months, five other sisters, namely Vayenga Maersk, Venta Maersk, Vuoksi Maersk, Vilnia Maersk and the last one, the name of which is still to be announced, will join Vistula and Volga in enhancing a number of Seago Line services in the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

For its part, Sea Machines recently opened a second location in Hamburg, Germany, supporting the company’s growing demand for engineering, sales and marketing across Europe. The company is also managing a pilot programme with Tuco Marine, of Denmark, to test the autonomous technology aboard the ProZero class of workboats.

Photo: The Vistula Maersk.