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Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics has entered into a strategic alliance with Netherlands-based Damen Shipyards Group to incorporate its autonomous and wireless-helm system into Damen vessels.
The partnership will give Damen the ability to integrate Sea Machines’ technology as standard features in their shipbuilding catalogue. The agreement also includes in-house simulator training that will allow employees and customers to train on Sea Machines’ user interface and become familiar with modern autonomous-command capabilities.
“This significant development sends a clear signal to the industry that autonomous marine technology is rapidly gaining adoption and is in-demand among commercial operators,” said Sea Machines’ CEO Michael G. Johnson. “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.”
Since 1969, Damen Shipyards has delivered more than 6,500 vessels, averaging around 175 deliveries per year. The company also has a significant “in-stock hull” program with more than 150 vessels in-stock at any given time. Damen plans to initially offer Sea Machines systems on workboats, patrol vessels, tugboats, crew transfer vessels, and ferries.
Sea Machines’ SM Series of products, which includes both the SM200 and SM300, provides marine operators with remote, task-driven, computer-guided vessel control, bringing advanced autonomy to small- and large-scale operations. The SM products are suited for existing or new-build commercial vessels.
The agreement is the most significant commercial shipbuilding partnership to date for Sea Machines, which launched in 2015. The company has also previously partnered with Maersk, the world’s top shipping conglomerate, and Brunswick, a leader in recreational marine. In 2020, the company raised $15 million in funding with significant participation from Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), a leading U.S. military shipbuilder. The company has also landed partnerships with the U.S. Maritime Administration and Maine Maritime Academy, among others.
“This alliance will play an important role towards the realization of Damen’s strategy, which is built on the continual development of digitalization, sustainability and operational excellence of Damen products and services,” said Damen’s Toine Cleophas. “The collaboration forms a part of Damen’s R&D program Smart Ship and will increase customer value by supporting a more digitalized Damen portfolio.”
Damen says it will initially adopt Sea Machines SM300 autonomous-command and remote-helm control technology in its test environment to further investigate the adoption of collision avoidance functionality.
“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 crew to have a more focused approached to those tasks that still require the human element, such as the various activities that take place when the vessel arrives in the port,” added Cleophas. “In some situations a full 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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