Maritime service provider KOTUG International, ship design company Rotortug, and tech start-up Captain AI today how a tug can sail the most optimal route without human intervention.

In collaboration with Captain AI, the rotortug RT Borkum sailed autonomously on the river Nieuwe Maas in Rotterdam using the Captain AI Route Planner and Autopilot.

The demonstration was part of the Smart Shipping event of the Netherlands Forum for Smart Shipping.


“The route planner can be seen as the Google Maps for waterways,” says 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.

“The digital captain has to know what the vessel’s destination is and how to get there in the most efficient way,” said Patrick Everts of KOTUG.

“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 operational tests in the busiest port of Europe, proving for the first time that autonomous planning followed by autonomous sailing works in practice.

In the summer of 2018, KOTUG and Rotortug demonstrated that it is possible to operate a tugboat in the port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, remotely from Marseille, France.

Kotug said that this was the first step on the roadmap towards fully autonomous sailing.

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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