Skip to main content



Friday, May 7, 2021 

Seattle-based Foss Maritime has selected Sea Machines Robotics’ SM300 autonomous command and control system for use on its tugboat Rachael Allen, the fourth of several new ASD-90 tugs under construction at US yard Nichols Brothers Boat Builders.

Due for delivery in May 2021, the newly built 90t bollard pull Rachael Allen will be the first US flagged harbour tug to integrate autonomous systems in real-world commercial operations. The project marks Sea Machines’ first installation of an autonomy system on a vessel over 5,000hp. Once delivered, the tug will provide tanker escort and ship assists for Foss Maritime clients in California.

The SM300 enables transit autonomy as well as remote access of the tugboat’s on-board machinery – a feature that allows personnel to manage and support operations from anywhere on board the vessel or from shore. The SM300 includes navigation obstacle detection and avoidance capability, reducing risk for crew during at-sea operations. While the Rachael Allen will be delivered with the SM300 and supporting hardware fully integrated into the vessel, the capability of the technology will be activated in stepped phases over the course of six to nine months to ensure full visibility and acceptance from all operational stakeholders.  

Foss will use its existing Fleet Monitoring Centre personnel to monitor the tugboat’s systems and operating domain via streaming video and sensor data. By having an extra set of eyes and hands with access to vessel command and control, the Sea Machines system allows Foss and the crew of the Rachael Allen to maximise productive time, safety and crew welfare.

“Foss is leveraging Sea Machines’ cutting-edge technology to take on the routine work and allow crew to focus on higher-level tasks and improve safety, while also increasing productivity and efficiency during harbour operations,” said Foss President and CEO Will Roberts. “Foss prides itself on always offering customers safe and innovative solutions, and this is one more way that we are delivering on that promise.”

 Sea Machines CEO Michael G Johnson said: “We are pleased that Foss is leveraging Sea Machines’ proven autonomy systems on their newest boat for routine harbour operations. And while our space has seen a number of government-innovation backed prototype initiatives for autonomous tugs in Europe, Japan and Singapore, it’s notable that Foss is launching the first commercially funded project in US waters. Our technology has been in use aboard commercial vessels around the world for nearly three years and is backed up by thousands of hours of testing and validation. This is yet another real-world example of how Sea Machines autonomy is reshaping the way work is being done by vessel crews on the water. We are dedicated to our oceans and ensuring that our systems are accessible to and affordable for Foss and other marine operators.”

Previously, Sea Machines and Foss teamed up in outfitting remotely commanded deck barge to land helicopters and host a scaled fuelling station for aircraft, surface vessels and shore replenishment.

Rachael Allen is outfitted with two MTU Tier 4 engines, producing 6,866bhp, while towing equipment consists of a Markey DEPGF-52R winch on the bow and a Markey DEPC-32 stern winch.

Reader Comments (0)

There are currently no comments on this article. Why not be the first and leave your thoughts below.

Leave Your Comment

Please keep your comment on topic, any inappropriate comments may be removed.

Return to index