Sea Machines Tests Autonomous Skimming Vessel with MARAD

sea machines autonomous skimmer vessel
Photo courtesy Sea Machines.

Sea Machines says it has successfully tested its autonomous technology in marine oil-spill response operations as part of a cooperation agreement with the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD).

The Boston-based autonomous marine tech company carried out the tests on Wednesday in Portland, Maine utilizing a Marine Spill Response Corp. (MSRC)-owned MARCO skimming vessel equipped with one of Sea Machines’ SM300 autonomous-command systems.

The on-water demonstrations took place before an audience of representatives from MARAD, government, naval, international, environmental and industry.

For the demonstration, a Sea Machines operator controlled the skimmer boat from a shoreside location at Portland Yacht Services. According to the company, the vessel performed capabilities that included remote autonomous control; ENC-based mission planning; autonomous waypoint tracking; autonomous grid line tracking; collaborative autonomy for multi-vessel operations; and wireless, remote payload control to deploy on-board boom, skimmer belt and other response equipment.

The company also discussed how to operate the skimmer vessel in an unmanned autonomous mode, which will help operators to respond to spill events 24/7 depending on recovery conditions, even when crews are restricted. This could also be used to reduce or eliminate exposure of crewmembers to challenging sea and weather, toxic fumes and other safety hazards.

Sea Machines says the technology opens a new era of capability for the marine industry which has the potential increase the safety, productivity and predictability of response for marine oil-spill operations.

“Our operation of the world’s first autonomous, remote-commanded spill-response vessel is yet another significant industry first for Sea Machines,” said Michael G. Johnson, founder and CEO, Sea Machines. “But even more important is the fact that we’ve proven that our technology can be applied to the marine spill response industry – as well as other marine sectors – to protect the health and lives of mariners responding to spills.”

“MSRC is excited to work with Sea Machines on this new technology. The safety of our personnel is the most important consideration in any response. Autonomous technology enhances safe operations,” said John Swift, vice president, MSRC.

“This is the future of the maritime industry. It’s safer, it’s faster, it’s more cost-effective,” said Richard Balzano, deputy administrator, MARAD. “This technology is here and it will make you a believer. We are here because we want to help the maritime industry evolve. It’s about safety, the environment and reducing risk on the water.”

Sea Machines’ SM Series, which includes the SM300 and SM200, provides marine operators with a task-driven, computer-guided vessel control, with advanced autonomy. Sea Machines is also a developer of advanced perception and navigation assistance technology for a range of vessel types, including containerships. The company is currently testing its perception and situational awareness technology aboard one of A.P. Moller-Maersk’s new-build ice-class container ships. In August 2018, Sea Machines also demonstrated the capabilities of its SM300 product aboard the world’s first autonomous-command, remote-controlled fireboat, owned by TUCO Marine, during an event in Korsør, Denmark.