Helsinki-based Wärtsilä has achieved what it calls a “breakthrough” in its IntelliTug project with trials underway following installation of a DP system on the tug PSA Polaris.

'PSA Polaris' will take autonomous tug operation to the next stage of trials (Wartsila)

'PSA Polaris' will take autonomous tug operation to the next stage of trials (Wartsila)

Wärtsilä is in collaboration with Singapore-based PSA Marine with the IntelliTug project developing and field-testing “intelligent vessel capabilities and viable pathways to achieve safe and sustainable autonomous operation” and installation of a “first-of-a-kind” DP system on PSA Polaris allows live trials to be carried in Singapore, the world’s busiest transhipment hub which is expected to double in capacity by 2040 bringing challenges for all involved including tug operators.

This phase of the project implementation approved by Lloyd’s Register, moves the bar higher on safety standards for vessel automation and autonomy, the project also having the support of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

The new DP system, also known as the Joystick Manoeuvring System, enables easier and more intuitive control of the tug’s movement. By pushing a button, the master can achieve ‘virtual anchoring’ to hold position and/or maintain the vessel’s heading.

Wärtsilä state the DP system also forms the foundational technology layer for the IntelliTug project, enabling digital navigation instructions to be passed to the vessel’s propulsion systems. The system has received a Statement of Compliance from Lloyd’s Register for the DP notation, thereby “endorsing its safety, reliability and performance.”

All involved are keen to explain the significance for future developments in the field of automation, Bernard Wong, Head of Fleet Management at PSA Marine stating: “The IntelliTug project is about discovering smarter, safer and more efficient ways of operating a harbour tug. It incorporates human-centric technology, design thinking, and man–machine collaboration. We are on a journey of turning today’s ideas into tomorrow’s reality.”

Classification society approval is key of course with Andrew Watt, Lloyd’s Register Regional Centre of Excellence manager for South Asia, the Middle East and Africa saying: “With the growing interest in repurposing existing vessel systems for autonomous navigation, Lloyd’s Register is taking the lead in making sure that control systems are safe and compliant as both a human-machine interface for vessel control, as well as the foundational layer for digital navigation instructions. We are delighted to advise that Wärtsilä’s DP system has met the requirements of our DP notation.”

By Peter Barker