Tug achieves world first using ‘Google Maps for waterways’ technology

Maritime service provider KOTUG International, shipbuilding company Rotortug, and tech start-up Captain AI claim to have demonstrated the first vessel in the world to autonomously sail the most optimal route without human intervention.

The demonstration, which was described by the project partners as ‘a significant milestone on the road towards fully autonomous and sustainable sailing’, was carried out at the Netherlands Forum for Smart Shipping (SMASH!) this week.

In collaboration with Captain AI, safe autonomous sailing with the RT Borkum rotor tug was demonstrated on the river Nieuwe Maas in Rotterdam with the use of the Captain AI Route Planner and Autopilot.

‘The route planner can be seen as the Google Maps for waterways,’ said Vincent Wegener of Captain AI. ‘It draws out the route, which the boat follows autonomously using our autopilot software.’

To plan the route as efficiently as possible, Captain AI’s software was connected to the KOTUG Optiport dispatch planning software, enabling optimised route planning in real-time, based on AIS data and Artificial Intelligence.

‘The digital captain has to know what the vessel’s destination is and how to get there in the most efficient way,’ commented KOTUG’s Patrick Everts. ‘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 emissions.’

The RT Borkum has already undergone several successful operational tests at the Port of Rotterdam ‘proving’, the project partners say, ‘the combination of autonomous planning and autonomous sailing in practice for the first time.’

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 together with the users and legislators.

Rhys Berry

Rhys Berry