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Figure 1 Typical ‘open water’ test scenario of more or less equally sized vessels


Figure 2 Scenario real-life run - third ship on port side, overtaking Seazip


Trials at sea In March, the consortium performed the first ever autonomous operations with seagoing vessels in the North Sea in an area west of Den Helder. The ‘SeaZip 3’, a Damen Fast Crew Supplier 2610 Twin Axe, operated by SeaZip Offshore Service was outfitted with collision avoidance technology. A total of 20 runs covering 11 challenging nautical scenarios were executed in which ‘SeaZip 3’ interacted with two other vessels; ‘Octans’, a training vessel of the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz and ‘Guardian’, an Emergency Towage Vessel, operated by The Netherlands Coastguard. The Dutch government is also a partner and gave permission for the trials.


Traffic conflict solution The trials focused on the traffic conflict solution assessments and used radar data and AIS information as input to the autonomous system. The system output was sent to the onboard autopilot and main engine throttle control. By testing these scenarios, the partners are able to show the decision- making process of an autonomous system in ensuring safe sailing and avoiding collisions with other vessels.


These trials showed that most manoeuvres were completed and carried out in a safe manner. The algorithms performed best in the higher speed range. At lower speeds the ship system did not interact well with the autopilot. A more fundamental issue concerns the sequential handling of evasive manoeuvres. As yet, the systems behaviour does not yet match a human operator, who considers the overall picture and the development of the sometimes complex traffic pattern when taking action. The artificial intelligence strategy has to be developed further, as well as the capacity of the software to learn.


It was concluded that further development of autonomous systems is needed to cope with complex marine traffic situations including foul weather, traffic separation schemes and restricted waters. Following the trials many of the lessons learned have already been included in the autonomous system and successfully tested on MARIN’s simulator.


This project contributes to the efforts of MARIN to develop a simulation environment for testing and the qualification of


report 11


autonomous systems. The wider roadmap that is being developed shows an economically and technically feasible plan, that considers the many steps that need to be taken to achieve further automation and autonomy. For more information read the interview with Marnix Krikke from NMT (pages 6-8) and see www.marin.nl/jips/autonomous-shipping.


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