The 90-ton Rachael Allen tugboat. Photo courtesy Foss

Foss Tug Fitted with Autonomous System Receives ABS Approval in Principle

Mike Schuler
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August 24, 2022

International classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has verified the design of a Foss harbor tug outfitted with an autonomous self-piloting system supplied by Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics.

Sea Machines says the approval in principle from ABS represents a key milestone for its SM300 system, the company’s flagship commercial product, and a major advancement in bringing autonomy to the marine supply chain.

The SM300 system was installed on the Foss tug Rachael Allen, which will first leverage the system for routine transit and stand-by operations before trialling remote piloting from a shore-based command center. The SM300 transit autonomy and station keeping are provided by interfacing with the Kongsberg-MTU propulsion system controls.

The 90-ton Rachael Allen is deployed in California, where it provides tanker escort and ship assists for Foss’ customers. The tug was delivered in 2021 by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland, Washington.

“As part of our ‘Always Safe, Always Ready’ culture, Foss is pleased to be providing the SM300 system for additional crew and vessel safety through the enhanced situational awareness it will bring to our operations,” said FOSS’ Dan Cole, Foss project manager.

Sea Machines has previously earned full approval from ABS for its SM200 commercial wireless helm for installation aboard a class of U.S.-flag tugboats that support articulated tug-barge (ATB) sets.

The SM300 installed on Rachael Allen is the result of close collaboration between Sea Machines, Foss and ABS. The collaboration is helping to bring emerging technology solutions to commercial operations and enhancing productivity and safety by addressing issues like crew fatigue during long transits or idle periods.

“Sea Machines worked closely alongside ABS and FOSS to yield this most recent approval, which moves our entire industry yet another step closer to widespread adoption of autonomous marine technologies,” said Michael G. Johnson, CEO of Sea Machines. “Earning this approval demonstrates our unwavering commitment to ensuring that these technologies are utilized safely, while making our industries more competitive and productive.”

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