Tug Sails Using AI Route Planner And Autopilot

A high-tech tug in the Netherlands has traveled without human intervention on an optimized route from Boompjes to Waalhaven in the Port of Rotterdam, marking a milestone on the path toward fully autonomous and maritime sustainable operations.

The milestone journey was led by maritime service provider KOTUG International, ship design company Rotortug and tech start-up Captain AI at the Smart Shipping event of the Netherlands Forum for Smart Shipping.

The demonstration follows the summer 2018 trial of a Rotortug sailing under remote control from Marseille, France to the port of Rotterdam, which according to KOTUG marked the first step on the road toward full vessel autonomy.

Now, with the collaboration with Captain AI, it is possible to safely sail the Rotortug RT Borkum autonomously on the river Nieuwe Maas in Rotterdam using the Captain AI Route Planner and Autopilot.

“The route planner can be seen as the Google Maps for waterways,” explained Vincent Wegener of Captain AI. “It calculates the route, which the boat then autonomously sails, using our autopilot software.”

To define this route as efficiently as possible, Captain AI’s software is connected to the KOTUG Optiport dispatch planning software, enabling optimized route planning in real-time, based on AIS data and artificial intelligence.

Patrick Everts of KOTUG said, “The digital captain has to know what the vessel’s destination is and how to get there in the most efficient way. Linking Captain AI’s software to OptiPort is not only making the skipper’s life easier because vessels can autonomously navigate the optimal route, but is also saving on fuel and CO2 emission.”

The RT Borkum has undergone several successful operational tests in the busiest port of Europe, proving for the first time that autonomous planning followed by autonomous sailing works in practice.  

KOTUG International and Captain AI have entered into a partnership to further develop and commercialize the software. The next step is making the software suitable for large-scale applications and to explore matters such as safety and legislation, in consultation with the users and legislators.

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