Groundbreaking Mayflower Autonomous Ship revealed to the world

Sep 16, 2020

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) was officially named during a special ceremony in Plymouth on the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower.

A ceremonial bottle of Plymouth Gin was poured on the ship, before representatives from America, Holland and the UK gave speeches.

They included the US Ambassador to the UK, Robert Wood Johnson, in the presence of the Dutch Ambassador, Karel van Oosterom, and the First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin.

The future of oceanography, MAS will transform ocean science, enabling scientists to gather the data they need to better understand critical issues including global warming, ocean plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation.

The ship was built by marine research organisation ProMare, with IBM acting as technology partner.


Robert Wood Johnson, said: "Four centuries after the famous Mayflower voyage across the Atlantic, the US and the UK are once again setting sail from Plymouth to make history.

"American and British scientists have collaborated to launch a new autonomous Mayflower ship powered by the most cutting-edge artificial intelligence ever known.

"As we embark on this new era of marine exploration together, it could not be clearer: in America and Britain, the pioneering spirit of the original Mayflower Pilgrims lives on."

Karel van Oosterom commented: "As the Netherlands, we have always been proud of our maritime history and religious tolerance.

"The story of the Mayflower is part of our history. It highlights the longstanding ties we have with the four nations commemorating, but also reflects what we stand for today.

"As a trading nation and partner in development, the Netherlands has a leading role in developing creative, innovative and sustainable solutions to global challenges.

Watch our coverage of the official naming ceremony of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship in Plymouth here.

"The launch of the 'new' Mayflower is a great example of innovation, both in the field of security and science.

"Together with the UK – as well as other countries, we work together to contribute to a safer and more sustainable world.

"Our presence here today, as well as our joint maritime activities in Plymouth are an example of this cooperation."

Adrian Vinken, Chair of Mayflower 400, added: "It's fitting that this radical pioneering vessel should receive the Mayflower name 400 years to the day that her namesake left on her original world-changing journey.

"It's the perfect way to start this year of national and international cultural activities and collaboration."

The ship launch is a key future-facing moment in Plymouth’s Mayflower 400 programme. It represents the strength of Plymouth's marine sector, an engine of growth and regeneration for the city. 

Andy Stanford-Clark, Chief Technology Officer at IBM UK & Ireland, said: "Able to scan the horizon for possible hazards, make informed decisions and change its course based on a fusion of live data, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship has more in common with a modern bank than its 17th century namesake.

"With its ability to keep running in the face of the most challenging conditions, this small ship is a microcosm for every aspiring 21st century business."

To enable followers around the world to stay updated with MAS as it undertakes its various missions, IBM and ProMare have today launched a new interactive web portal.

Built by IBM iX, the business design arm of IBM Services, the MAS400 portal is designed to provide real-time updates about the ship's location, environmental conditions and data from its various research projects. Live weather data will be streamed from The Weather Company, as MAS is receiving forecast data and insight from the new IBM Weather Operations Center.

The portal even features a seven-armed, stowaway octopus chatbot called Artie, who claims to be hitching a ride on the ship.

Powered by IBM Watson Assistant technology and created in partnership with European start-up Chatbotbay, Artie has been trained to provide information about MAS and its adventures in a lively, and accessible format.

Fredrik Soreide, Scientific Director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project and Board Member of ProMare, added: " is one of the most advanced ocean mission web portals ever built.

"Protecting the ocean depends on our ability to engage the public in important matters affecting its health. This MAS400 portal is designed to do exactly that and tell people where the ship is, what speed it's travelling at, what conditions it's operating in and what science we are conducting.

"Users can even help Artie the Octopus fish out surgical masks, cigarette butts and other increasingly common forms of ocean litter from a virtual ocean of facts and data."

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