# In Proceedings of the 9

th
IFAC Conference on Manoeuvring and Control of Marine Craft (MCMC2012), Arenzano, Italy,
September, 2012.

Sliding Mode Controls in Partial Feedback Linearization applied to Unstable
Ship Steering

L. P. Perera * and C. Guedes Soares *
*Centre for Marine Technology and Engineering (CENTEC), Instituto Superior Tecnico, Technical University of Lisbon,
Portugal (Tel: +351 21 841 7468, email:prasad.perera@mar.ist.utl.pt and guedess@mar.ist.utl.pt).
Abstract: This paper focuses on a sliding mode controller for a partial feedback linearization applied
unstable ship steering system. The ship steering system is analyzed in this study considering a nonlinear
mathematical model that is derived by the second-order linear Nomoto model under unstable
maneuverability conditions. The partial feedback linearization approach is proposed to simplify the
nonlinear steering system, in which the rudder rate effects are removed. This separates the vessel steering
system into two sectors of: linearized dynamics and internal dynamics. The sliding mode controller is
applied to linearized dynamics. The stability of zero dynamics in internal dynamics is analyzed, as a part
of the feedback linearization process. It is shown that the proposed sliding mode controller in vessel
steering is robust against parameter and unstructured uncertainties, and bounded external disturbances.
The robustness of the sliding mode controller is analyzed considering the Lyapunov stability theorem.
Finally, the proposed controllers are simulated with respect to unstable steering conditions and successful
computational results are also reported in this paper.
Keywords: Unstable ship steering, Sliding mode control, Partial feedback linearization, Nonlinear vessel
steering, Nomoto model, Internal dynamics.

1. INTRODUCTION
Hydrodynamic forces and moments on a hull generate
nonlinear steering conditions in ocean going vessels. The
nonlinearities in vessel steering formulate stable and unstable
manoeuvring conditions. Furthermore, sea and cargo
conditions on a vessel can also contribute additional factors
into stable and unstable steering conditions. The nonlinear
steering conditions (ie. stable and unstable steering) are also
the primarily factors that are affecting vessel directional or
dynamic stability. It is observed that the same vessel can
generate stable or unstable steering conditions under different
Furthermore, a vessel associated with poor stable steering
conditions can become unstable under various water depths
(Amerongen and Cate (1975)).
In general, nonlinear steering conditions can be observed in
ocean going vessels under various course changing
manoeuvres. Almost all the control designs are based on
some types of models, therefore a proper nonlinear vessel
steering model that can include stable and unstable steering
conditions is considered in this study. One should note that
the vessel steering parameters are commonly assumed to be
deterministic in the recent literature. However, the stochastic
ocean behaviour influences vessel steering, the ocean
dynamics cannot be isolated from vessel steering. The above
assumption cannot be held against realistic environmental
conditions (i.e. sea and wind conditions). Therefore,
parameter variations in vessel steering will occur, which can
generate system or model uncertainties that eventually affect
the controller design process. When the nonlinear vessel
steering model fails to include system-model uncertainties,
the controller should be robust against the system-model
uncertainties. Therefore, a nonlinear controller that is robust
against parameter and unstructured uncertainties and external
disturbances in an ocean going vessel is considered in this
paper.
In this study, a sliding mode controller, one of the nonlinear
control approaches, is proposed to overcome the challenges
faced by vessel steering. The sliding mode control approach
is proposed due to several reasons (Slotine and Li (1991)):
Firstly, the controller can include parameter and unstructured
uncertainties; secondly, it can quantify the response of
modelling and performance trade-offs; thirdly, it can reject
bounded external disturbances. However, the sliding mode
controller design process can often be degraded with the
complexity between inputs (ie. rudder angle and rudder rate)
and outputs (ie. vessel heading or course) in vessel steering.
Therefore, to simplify the complexity between inputs and
outputs and to preserve its nonlinear behaviour in vessel
steering, a feedback linearization process is proposed in this
study.
2. MATHEMATICAL MODEL FOR VESSEL STEERING
The second-order Nomoto model (Nomoto et al. (1957)) can
be considered as:
( ) ( )
R R R
T K r r T T r T T δ δ + = + + +
&
& & &
3 2 1 2 1
(1)
where the respective vessel steering parameters are presented
as: T
1
, T
2
, T
3
and K
R
. The second-order Nomoto model, in (1),
can be written with respect the vessel heading angle, ψ, of the
vessel:

( )
R R
R
T
T T
K
T T T T
δ δ ψ ψ ψ + = +
|
|
¹
|

\
|
+ +
&
& & &
3
2 1 2 1 2 1
) 3 (
1 1 1
(2)
The second-order Nomoto model in (2) is adequate for
course keeping manoeuvres, but this model may not be
sufficient for course changing manoeuvres, where nonlinear
steering conditions can be observed. Therefore, the vessel
steering model presented in (2) should be modified. The
nonlinear steering conditions, where the rudder angles larger
than 5
o
can be represented by replacing the heading rate, ψ& ,
by a nonlinear function, ( ) ψ& H K
R
, that was initially
proposed in (Bech and Smitt (1969)). The nonlinear
function, ( ) ψ& H , is called as a reversed spiral curve that can
be approximated to a nonlinear function, which can be
written as (Amerongen and Cate, 1975):
( )
3
2 1
ψ n ψ n ψ H & & & + = (3)
where the respective vessel steering parameters are presented
as: n
1
, and n
2
. The positive and negative conditions of the
parameter, n
1
, determines the stability condition in vessel
steering: n
1
is positive in course stable steering and n
1
is
negative in course unstable steering (Fossen, and Paulsen
(1992)). Applying (3) into (2), the nonlinear vessel steering
system can be written as:
( ) ( )
R R
d d n n d d δ δ ψ ψ ψ ψ + + + − − =
&
& & & &
3 2 1
3
2 2 1
) 3 (
(4)
where the initial parameters of nonlinear vessel steering are
defined as:
2 1 1
/ 1 / 1 T T d + = ,
2 1 2
/ T T K d
R
= and
3 3
T d = . Hence,
(4) can be rewritten as:
R R
δ β δ β ψ α ψ α ψ α ψ
&
& & & &
2 1 3 2
3
1
) 3 (
+ + + + = (5)
where the final parameters of nonlinear vessel steering can
be defined as: α
1
= -n
2
d
2
, α
2
= -n
1
d
2
, α
3
= -d
1
, β
1
= d
2
, and β
2
= d
2
d
3
. Therefore, the nonlinear vessel steering system in (5)
is used as the system model for control design in this study.
One should note that the nonlinear vessel steering system
presented in (5) consists of two control inputs; rudder angle
and rudder rate. However, the simultaneous control of rudder
angle and rudder rate with respect to vessel heading is a
complicated control process. Therefore, to simplify the
nonlinear vessel steering system in (5), a feedback
linearization approach is proposed.
3. FEEDBACK LINEARIZATION
The nonlinear vessel steering system in (5) is considered for
feedback linearization. However, one should note that the
system in (5) is not in an affine format (Guay, 2001). Hence,
to transform the nonlinear vessel steering system into an
affine format, a special algebraic coordinate transformation is
proposed and that can be written as:
R
δ β ψ x
ψ x
ψ x
2 3
2
1
− =
=
=
& &
&
(6)
Applying the coordinate transformation in (6), the nonlinear
vessel steering system presented in (5) can be written as:
( )
R
R
x x x x
x x
x x
δ β α β α α α
δ β
2 3 1 3 3 2 2
3
2 1 3
2 3 2
2 1
+ + + + =
+ =
=
&
&
&
(7)
One should note that the rudder angle as a main control input
is illustrated in (7), where the rudder rate effects are removed.
The nonlinear vessel steering system presented in (7) can be
written in a matrix format:
x
u x G x F x ) ( ) ( + = & (8)
where the respective matrices can be written as:
[ ]
R x
T
u x x x x δ = = ,
3 2 1
(9)
(
(
(
¸
(

¸

+ +
=
3 3 2 2
3
2 1
3
2
) (
x x x
x
x
x F
α α α

( )(
(
(
¸
(

¸

+
=
2 3 1
2
0
) (
β α β
β x G

The vessel heading angle, , ψ is considered as an output of
the vessel steering system and that can be written as:
ψ = = ) ( x h y
(10)
Hence, considering the nonlinear vessel steering system in (8)
and the output in (10), the feedback linearization process is
accomplished.
As the first step of the feedback linearization process, the full
state or partial feedback linearization capabilities of the
nonlinear vessel steering system in (8) should be
investigated. This has been done by a Lie derivatives based
transformation of the system output. The first Lie derivative
of the system output in (10) can be written as (Levine, 2011):
[ ] 0
0
0 0 1
0
) ( ) ( ) (
) (
) (
) ( ) (
1
2
1
2
3 2 1
1 0 1
=
(
(
(
¸
(

¸

=
(
(
(
¸
(

¸

(
¸
(

¸

=

= =
β
β
β
β
x
x h
x
x h
x
x h
x G
x
x h
x h L x h L L
G F G
(11)
Since, the first Lie derivative of the nonlinear vessel steering
system output is, h L L
F G
0
= 0. Then, the second Lie derivative
of the system output in (10) should be derived and that can be
written as:
(
(
(
¸
(

¸

(
(
(
¸
(

¸

+ +
(
¸
(

¸

=
(
¸
(

¸

=
3 3 2 2
3
2 1
3
2
3 2 1
1
1 1 1
) ( ) ( ) (
) (
) (
) (
x x x
x
x
x
x h
x
x h
x
x h
L
x F
y
x h
L x h L L
G
G F G
α α α

[ ] [ ]
[ ] 0
0
0 1 0
0 0 1
2
1
2
2
1
3 3 2 2
3
2 1
3
2
1
≠ =
(
(
(
¸
(

¸

=
=
(
(
(
¸
(

¸

(
(
(
¸
(

¸

+ +
=
β
β
β
α α α
x L
x x x
x
x
L
G G
(12)
Since, the second Lie derivative of the nonlinear vessel
steering system output is, 0 ) (
1
≠ x h L L
F G
, it can be concluded
that the relative degree of the system is of the order 2, where
the nonlinear vessel steering system is of the order 3. One
should note that the relative degree order is less than the
system order. Therefore, the nonlinear vessel steering system
cannot be simplified under full state feedback linearization

but partial feedback linearization. The partial feedback
linearization applied nonlinear vessel steering system in (8)
can be written as:
1
0
1
) ( ) ( x x h x h L z
F
= = = (13)
) (
) (
) (
1
2
x F
x
x h
x h L z
F

= =

2
3 3 2 2
3
2 1
3
2
3 2 1
) ( ) ( ) (
x
x x x
x
x
x
x h
x
x h
x
x h
=
(
(
(
¸
(

¸

+ +
(
¸
(

¸

=
α α α

The resulting feedback controller law under the partial
feedback linearization applied nonlinear vessel steering
system can be written as:
( )
( ) ( ) ( )
x x x
v x v x
x
u + − = + − =
3
2
1 1
β
α
β
(14)
where v
x
is a new control input that is often referred as a
synthetic control input. The respective control functions of
α(x) and β(x) are derived as:
( ) [ ]
3
3 3 2 2
3
2 1
3
2
2
0 1 0 ) ( x
x x x
x
x
x h L x
F
=
(
(
(
¸
(

¸

+ +
= =
α α α
α

( ) [ ]
( )
2
2 3 1
2
1 1
0
0 1 0 ) ( β
β α β
β β =
(
(
(
¸
(

¸

+
= = x h L L x
F G
(15)
Hence, the partial feedback linearization applied nonlinear
vessel steering system in (14) can be summarized as:
x
v z
z z
=
=
2
2 1
&
&
(16)
Internal dynamics of the partial feedback linearization
applied nonlinear vessel steering system in (16) can be
written as:
x
v z z x x
|
|
¹
|

\
|
+ = − − +
2
1
2 2 2
3
2 1 3
2
1
3
β
β
α α α
β
β
&
(17)
Hence, the stability conditions of internal dynamics in (17)
should be further investigated to observe the overall system
stability. The stability of internal dynamics can be observed
by its zero dynamics. Internal dynamics will achieve zero
dynamics by formulating the system output to be zero, and
that can be written as:
0 ; 0 ; 0
2 2 1 1 1
= = = = = =
x
v z z x z x & & (18)
Applying the zero dynamics conditions derived in (18) into
internal dynamics of the vessel steering system in (17) can be
written as:
0
3
2
1
3
= + x x
β
β
&
(19)
The conditions of zero dynamics in (19) will determine the
overall system stability of partial feedback linearization
applied vessel steering. The parameters in nonlinear vessel
steering can be written as β
1
>0 and β
2
>0. Hence, the
parameters always satisfy the condition of 0 /
2 1
> β β .
Therefore, the system zero dynamics are asymptotically
stable, where the pole of internal dynamics is on the left-half
plan of the root locus. Hence, stable internal dynamics for the
partial feedback linearization applied nonlinear vessel
steering system can be concluded.
4. CONTROL SYSTEM
The proposed closed-loop control system is presented in
Figure 1 an consists of three main units: pre-filter, vessel
steering system, and control system. The pre-filter formulates
the reference heading angle and rate with respect to the
calculated. Then the angle difference (ie. heading error) will
feedback into the control system. The control system will
formulate appropriate control inputs that to be implemented
on the rudder actuation system. The rudder angle variations
will generate the required steering conditions to achieve the
desired heading angle in vessel steering. Two control
approaches are considered in this study: sliding mode control
and PID control.

4.1 Pre-filter Approach
The main objective of the pre-filter is to obtain a smooth
transition for the vessel reference heading,
r
ψ , and rate
r
ψ&
with respect to the required heading angle,
c
r
ψ& . The
proposed pre-filter can be written as:
c
r r r r r r r r
ψ ω ψ ω ψ ω ζ ψ
2 2
2 = + + & & & (20)
where ζ
r
and ω
r
are the pre-filter parameters.
4.2 Vessel Steering System
The partial feedback linearization applied vessel steering
system for controller design is further discussed in this
section. To derive the sliding mode controller, the
mathematical model of vessel steering derived in (16) can be
written in a generalized format:
2 1
z z = & (21)
z x
w v z + =
2
& (22)

where w
z
is matched parameter uncertainties, unstructured
uncertainties and disturbances in vessel steering that are
bounded.
4.3 Sliding Mode Control.
In sliding mode control (Khalil, 2002), a feedback control
law that constrains the motions of vessel steering to a sliding
manifold is introduced. The sliding manifold is a hyper
surface that is instated in the state space of vessel steering.

Fig. 1. Control System.

One should note that the sliding manifold is independent of
the vessel steering system structure, therefore sliding mode
control is inherently robust to parameter uncertainties and un-
modelled dynamics. Furthermore, the nonlinearities
associated with vessel steering near the zero rudder angle
position can be reduced by the sliding manifold. This
phenomenon can also be seen as a model reduction in vessel
steering.
The vessel steering system behaviour under sliding mode
control can be divided into two phases: reaching phase and
sliding phase. In the reaching phase, the vessel steering
trajectory that is starting in an initial condition moves toward
the sliding manifold. In the sliding phase, the trajectory that
is on the sliding manifold moves toward the origin of the
equilibrium point (ie. zero rudder angle). When the system
trajectory reaches the sliding manifold, the system dynamics
are constrained to a reduced-order model. Therefore, the
system nonlinearities associated with vessel steering are
reduced by the manifold. The sliding manifold, s = 0, that
constrains the motions of vessel steering can be written as:
0
2 1 1
= + = e e a s (23)
where a
1
> 0 is a parameter of the sliding manifold that is
related to the inclination of the manifold. Therefore, the
sliding manifold guarantees that, the system errors e
1
and e
2

will be minimized as the time passes. Furthermore, the
inclination of the sliding manifold is related to the rate of
reduction in the system errors. The respective system errors
presented in (23), e
1
and e
2
, can be written as:
;
2 2 1 1 r r
z z e z z e & − = − = (24)
where
r r
z ψ = is vessel reference heading and
r
z& is vessel
reference heading rate. One should note that the sliding
surface is based on the errors from all system states rather
than a single output error in vessel steering. Therefore, the
controller will minimize the respective errors in all state
variables, rather than on a single state, which is another
advantage in this approach. The differentiation of the sliding
manifold in (23) can be written as:
2 1 1
e e a s & & & + = (25)
Applying (24), the differentiation of the sliding manifold in
(25) can be further illustrated as:
( )
r r
z z z z a s & & & & & & − + − =
2 1 1
(26)
Applying (21) and (22) into (26) can be written as:
z r x r
w z v z a z a s + − + − = & & & & &
1 1 1
(27)
The stability conditions of nonlinear control systems are
often analyzed by Lyapunov stability theorem. Hence, a
Lyapunov candidate function that is considered for the
stability analysis of the sliding manifold can be written as:
2
1
2
1
s V =
(28)
Applying (27) into the differentiated Lyapunov candidate
function in (28) can be written as:
( )
x z r r
sv w z z a z a s s s V + + − − = = & & & & &
&
1 1 1 1
(29)
One should note that the vessel steering system is not
required to follow complete pre-filter conditions. Only the
required heading angle variation should be achieved.
Therefore, the pre-filter reference heading rate conditions are
neglected, where 0 ≠ =
r r
z ψ 0 = =
r r
z ψ& & and 0 = =
r r
z ψ& & & & .
However, the removal of the reference heading conditions
can also reduce the high control gain requirements in vessel
steering. Hence, (29) can be written as:
( )
x z
sv w z a s V + + =
2 1 1
&
(30)
Consider a known function, ) ( z ρ , that satisfies the conditions
of
) (
2 1
z w z a
z
ρ ≤ +
(31)
The parameter uncertainties, unstructured uncertainties and
disturbances that are bounded can also be included into the
function, ) ( z ρ . Hence, (31) can be written as:
( )
x
sv z s V + ≤ ρ
&
(32)
Furthermore, (32) can be further modified as:
( ) [ ] 0 ) sgn( ≤ + ≤
x
v s z s V ρ
&
(33)
where the function, sgn(s), can be presented by:
¦
¹
¦
´
¦
< −
=
>
=
0 1
0 0
0 1
s for
s for
s for
sgn(s)
(34)
One should note that the function, sgn(s), is a discontinuous
function. Therefore, this approach introduces discontinuity
into the controller. Hence, the feedback control law that
satisfies the condition in (33) can be written as:
) sgn( ) ( s z v
x
β − = (35)
where the functions, β(z), is defined as:
) ( ) (
0
β ρ β + ≥ z z (36)
where 0
0
> β is a known constant. Hence, considering (35),
and (36), the modified feedback controller law can be written
as:
( ) ) sgn( ) (
1
3
2
s z x u
x
β
β
− − =
(37)
Applying the function derived in (36) into (33) can be written
as:

( ) [ ] s v s x s V
x 0 1
) sgn( β ρ − ≤ + ≤
&
(38)
One should note that the constant,
0
β , can be chosen
arbitrarily large, in which case (38) will achieve semi-
negative definite. Therefore, the feedback control law
presented in (37) will achieve semi-global stability against
the nonlinear vessel steering conditions. Therefore, the vessel
steering system reaches the sliding manifold (s = 0) in finite
time. However, once it reaches the sliding manifold, it will
not leave from the sliding manifold. Furthermore, it moves
towards the origin under chattering effects. The chattering
effects, the system response oscillations on the sliding
manifold as presented in Perera and Guedes Soares (2012a),
are one drawback in sliding mode control that is due to the
discontinuous function, sgn(s). Therefore, a continuous

function, sat(s), that replaces the discontinuous functions,
sgn(s), is proposed. The feedback control law in (35)
considering the continuous function, sat(s), can be written as:
) ( ) ( s sat x v
x
β − = (39)
where the function sat(s) is presented in:
ε
ε
ε
ε
ε
¦
¹
¦
´
¦
− ≤ −
< < −

=
s
s
s
s sat
for 1
for
s
for 1
) (
(40)
Hence, considering (39), the modified feedback controller
law derived can be written as:
( ) ) ( ) (
1
3
2
s sat x x u
x
β
β
− − =
(41)
However, the controller stability with respect to the feedback
control law in (41) should be further analyzed. Considering a
Lyapunov candidate function that can be written as:
2
1 2
2
1
e V =
(42)
The differentiation of the Lyapunov candidate function in
(42) can be written as:
2 1 1 1 2
e e e e V = = &
&
(43)
Applying (23) into (43) can be written as:
1
2
1 1 2
se e a V + − =
&
(44)
A parameter, θ, that satisfies the condition of 0 ≤ θ ≤ 1,
applying into (44) can be written as:
( )
1
2
1 1
2
1 1 2
1 se e a e a V + − − − = θ θ
&
(45)
One should note that the condition |s| ≤ ε, (45) can be written
as:
( )
1
2
1 1
2
1 1 2
1 e e a e a V ε θ θ + − − − ≤
& (46)
Hence, (46) can be written as:
( ) 0 e a 1 V
2
1 1 2
≤ θ − − ≤
&
(47)
That should also satisfy the condition of:
0
1
2
1 1
≤ + − e e a ε θ
(48)
The condition in (48) can be further elaborated as:
1 1
e a θ ε ≤
(49)
One should note that the semi-negative definite condition in
(47) can be satisfied under the conditions in (49). Therefore,
the controller in (41) will also achieve semi-global stability.
Hence, the trajectory of vessel steering reaches the manifold
region, |s| ≤ ε, in finite time. Once it reaches the manifold
region, |s| ≤ ε, it will move towards the bounded region of Ω
e

in finite time. Once it reaches the bounded region of Ω
e
, it
will stay in the region. The bounded region, Ω
e
, can be
written as:
{ } ε θ ε ≤ ≤ = s : e a Ω
e 1 1
(50)
The larger manifold region, ε, in the function, sat(s),
generates a larger steady state error but a smoother control
signal. The smaller manifold region, ε, in the function, sat(s),
generates a smaller steady state error but the chattering
effects will be resulted.
5. COMPUTATIONAL SIMULATION
The parameters from the vessel steering system have been
extracted from the study in (Ohtsu et al. (1979)) that are
based on ”Shioji Maru” vessel with physical conditions of:
length 41.70 (m), breadth 8.0 (m), gross tons 331.31 (g.tons),
max speed 11.49 (knots). The vessel linear parameters are
considered as: T
1
= 7.0 (s), T
2
= 2.8 (s), T
3
= 3.8 (s) and K
R
=
0.11 (1/s). The vessel nonlinear parameters are assumed as:
n
1
= -2.20 (s) and n
2
= 5.92 (s
3
2
). The parameter of the
feedback control law in sliding mode control is considered as:
β
0
2
). The parameters for PID control are
assumed as: k
P
=6.0 (1/s
2
) , k
I
= 0.25 (1/s
3
) and k
D
= 0.5 (1/s).
The white Gaussian noise type disturbances are also included
into the system to evaluate the robustness of both controllers.
It is assumed that the rudder angle is associated with the
maximum limit of π/4 (rad), therefore rudder angle variation
within this region due to the controller is expected. The
computational simulations for sliding mode and PID controls
under unstable vessel steering are presented in Figures 2 and
3. A situation of larger variations in vessel reference heading
in relatively short time periods is considered for these
simulations to evaluate the control performances.
In the top plot of Figure 2, vessel reference heading, vessel
actual heading with sliding mode control with sgn(s)
function (SMC sgn(.)), vessel actual heading with sliding
mode control with sat(s) function (SMC sat(.)), and vessel
actual heading with PID control are presented. As presented
in the plot; the sliding mode controller with sgn(s) function
has captured vessel reference heading faster; the sliding
mode controller with sat(s) function has captured vessel
reference heading within the same-time interval with a small
steady state error; the PID controller has not propeller
captured vessel reference heading. In the bottom plot of
Figure 3, vessel heading errors of sliding mode control with
sgn(s) function, sliding mode control with sat(s) function,
and PID control with respect to vessel reference heading are
presented.

Fig. 2. Simulations of course changing manoeuvres

In the top plot of Figure 3, rudder angle variations of sliding
mode control with sgn(s) function, sliding mode control with
sat(s) function, and PID control are presented. As noted from
the figure, sliding mode control with sgn(s) function, and
sliding mode control with sat(s) function, have satisfied the
rudder angle limitations, where PID control has exceeded
rudder angle limitations in some situations. It is observed that
the vessel actual heading angle under sliding mode controller
with the function sgn(s) reaches the actual heading with some
chattering effects. However, the vessel actual heading under
sliding mode controller with the function sat(s) reaches the
rudder angle and rate in sliding mode and PID controls are
contained noise control output due to external disturbances
that were included on vessel steering, where the control input
is trying to compensate. However, PID control has not
presented any success on compensation of the external
disturbances, where larger oscillations are presented by
6. CONCLUSIONS
This paper introduces a sliding mode controller approach for
unstable ship steering that is a part of the intelligent
navigation system that is developed in Perera and Guedes
Soares (2012a), (2012b) and Perera et al. (2012). As
presented in the computational results the contribution of the
controller can be summarized as:
• Actual vessel heading has achieved reference vessel
heading in a shorter time period under sliding mode
control with respect to PID control.
• Negligible overshoot conditions have been achieved
by vessel response under nonlinear steering in
sliding mode control with respect to PID control.
The successful results obtained in this study shows the
sliding mode controller capabilities to overcome the
challenges faced by vessel steering under parameter
uncertainties, un-modelled dynamics, and external
disturbances that is the main contribution in this study.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This work has been made within the project ”Methodology
for ships manoeuvrability tests with self-propelled models”,
which is being funded by the Portuguese Foundation for
Science and Technology under contract PTDC/TRA/74332
/2006. The research work of the first author has been
supported by a Doctoral Fellowship of the Portuguese
Foundation for Science and Technology under contract
SFRH/BD/46270/2008.
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