Originally slated to come to Plymouth MA to coincide with 2020’s disrupted 400th anniversary of the landing of the original Mayflower, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) arrived in its home port of Plymouth, Massachusetts on June 30, 2022.
Plymouth 400 worked with the Mayflower Autonomous Ship team and the Town of Plymouth for 8 years to make Plymouth, Massachusetts its home port and bring forward-facing technology to our 400-year-old town. The ship arrived after a historic transatlantic journey from Plymouth, England, the same port the Pilgrims sailed from in 1620.
The following description is from a press release provided by ProMare, Inc.:
With no human captain or onboard crew, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) is the first self-directed autonomous ship to traverse the Atlantic Ocean. MAS is owned and operated by ProMare Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit company. The ship and the software that runs it were designed and engineered in the UK by a team from Msubs Ltd. and Marine AI Ltd., with cooperation and support from a wide array of industry and research partners. IBM is the project’s lead technology partner and lead scientific partner, and the developer/provider of many products MAS’ systems are built upon, including the (AI) Captain which guides the vessel and makes real-time decisions while at sea. Designed to forge a cost-effective and flexible platform for gathering data about the ocean, MAS will help scientists access the data they need to advance understanding of key global issues affecting ocean health including ocean acidification, microplastics and marine mammal conservation.
“MAS represents a significant step in fulfilling ProMare’s mission to promote marine research and exploration throughout the world.” said Ayse Atauz Phaneuf, President of ProMare. Collaborations with an experienced team of marine professionals allow ProMare to execute research projects designed to enhance our knowledge of our ocean environment and maritime history, both independently and in concert with academic, corporate, public and government agencies. Dr. Phaneuf states, “This pioneering mission is the result of years of work and a global collaboration between ProMare, IBM and dozens of partners from across industry and academia.”
As with any experiment, she was not without her challenges, stopping once in the Azores and once in Halifax Nova Scotia for adjustments and fixes, all the while learning and perfecting her operation. “From the outset our goal was to ‘attempt’ to cross the Atlantic autonomously, all the while collecting vital information about our ocean and climate, AND how best to design, deploy and trust highly autonomous systems at sea”, explains Brett Phaneuf, co-creator of MAS. “Success is not in the completed crossing but in the team that made it happen and the knowledge we now possess and will share so that more and more ships like MAS can safely roam our seas and teach us more about the planet on which we live.”
Mayflower Autonomous Ship has joined Mayflower II, the reproduction of the original Mayflower, in Plymouth Harbor where educational and informative events will help the public learn more about the unmanned ship, autonomy and the health of our oceans. “Throughout the centuries, iconic ships have made their mark in maritime technology and discovery through journeys often thought impossible. How exciting to see history being made again on these shores with this extraordinary vessel”, said Captain Whit Perry of Plimoth Patuxet Museum’s Mayflower II.
When she’s not in her home port, MAS will be conducting research in cooperation with WHOI, NOAA and other scientific organizations.
Stephen Cole, Director of the Plymouth Economic Development Foundation sees the potential, “The Green-blue economy is more than a buzz phrase. Plymouth is quickly becoming known for Marine Tech and Trade, which includes aquaculture to AI. The MAS is an ambassador for the next generation of things Plymouth will be famous for.”