Damen Shipyard has signed an alliance agreement with US-based Sea Machines Robotics to further examine the implementation of collision avoidance functionality on board Damen vessels.

The strategic alliance will accelerate the adoption of navigating technology to increase autonomy levels on Damen-built vessels.

Damen Shipyards Gorinchem research manager Toine Cleophas said: “This alliance will play an important role towards the realisation of Damen’s strategy, which is built on the continual development of digitalisation, sustainability, and operational excellence of Damen products and services. The collaboration forms a part of Damen’s R&D programme Smart Ship and will increase customer value by supporting a more digitalised Damen portfolio.”

As part of the alliance, Damen will initially test the Sea Machines SM300 autonomous-command and remote-helm control technology to forecast the integration intricacy and system performance on any kind of Damen vessel.

The adoption of the solution in software models will exhibit the benefits of autonomous technology even before its deployment by creating a digital twin of the ship.

Cleophas continued: “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 the crew to have a more focused approach 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 fully 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.”

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Sea Machines CEO Michael G Johnson said: “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. This partnership will accelerate Sea Machines’ position as the ‘go-to’ provider of advanced marine technology and is securing Damen as an innovative industry leader for years to come.”

The Sea Machine collision avoidance system enables the navigator to multitask or even rest while the ship sails its course and evades accidents based on COLREG.

The system uses multiple sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) to recognise obstacles and manoeuvres the vessel safely to its destination.

Damen said that it is also continuing with its internal Smart Ship programme, which includes Damen Triton programme.

As part of the programme, a data connection is being generated between a vessel and shore.