Hybrid electric cargo ship to feature autonomous technology

Connecticut-based First Harvest Navigation’s hybrid electric cargo vessel Captain Ben Moore will be equipped with crew-assist technology from Boston-based autonomy specialist Sea Machines.

In a statement issued yesterday (26 October), Sea Machines said that the installation of its SM300 autonomous command and remote-helm control system will take place next month.

According to Sea Machines, the system will offer First Harvest Navigation ‘redundancy and flexibility for crew shifts’, and even ‘the capability to autonomously command Captain Ben Moore from the company’s land-based control station’.

The SM300 system also features obstacle detection and collision avoidance technology.

Captain Ben Moore is powered by a pair of Cummins QSB 6.7 diesels, generating 104 kW each at 2,400 kW, and lithium batteries connected to a pair of BAE Systems HybriDrive electric motors.

The aluminum catamaran will enter service between Norwalk, Connecticut and Huntington, New York, to deliver food and other cargo faster, more reliably and more affordably than truck transportation to East Norwalk’s Harbor Harvest food market, while also reducing regional highway congestion. Comparable trucking services require a near nine-hour round trip to deliver within this location. First Harvest Navigation completes the terminal-to-terminal voyage in approximately 35 to 45 minutes.

Bob Kunkel, president, First Harvest Navigation, commented: ‘Part of our transportation goals are to develop autonomous, hybrid catamarans to move farm products across Long Island Sound. The Sea Machines SM300 autonomous navigation system will help us achieve many of our goals because it enables shipping movements to be completed very reliably and efficiently in a seamless and sustainable delivery system.

‘Shifting cargo from streets and highways also alleviates the growing congestion, lower emissions and reestablishes our waterways as a viable and cost-efficient alternative to land-based transport.’

Michael G. Johnson, founder and CEO, Sea Machines, added: ‘Sea Machines and First Harvest Navigation are aligned in our commitments to innovation to bolster the U.S. marine highway system and in our support of family farms.

‘The SM300 ensures predictable and performance-based vessel operations while providing a 24/7 crew support system that is always on watch. It often takes determined entrepreneurial leaders like First Harvest Navigation to move an industry into new waters and Sea Machines is pleased to support the achievement of their goals.’

Ian Taylor

Ian Taylor