Autonomous tug to begin Port of Singapore operations next year

ABB and Singaporean shipyard Keppel Offshore & Marine have agreed a deal to develop an autonomous tug to begin operations in the Port of Singapore before the end of next year, with the two companies to work together on creating technologies that will be retrofitted on a 32-metre harbour tugboat for the project.

During the initial phase of the plan, the vessel, operated by Keppel Offshore & Marine’s joint-venture company Keppel Smit Towage, will complete a series of navigational tasks in a designated test area in the Port of Singapore, steered from an onshore control centre.

The second phase of the project will see the vessel perform autonomous collision avoidance tasks while under remote supervision.

“The intent of our technology is not to entirely remove the crew, but rather to relieve the crew from the tasks than can be automated and thus enable them to perform at their best during critical operations,” said Juha Koskela, Managing Director, ABB Marine & Ports.

ABB says that it intends to build on the insights gained from a previous trial conducted on a remotely operated passenger ferry, Suomenlinna II, in Helsinki harbour in November 2018, though it notes that the complexity of operating in a high-traffic area like the Port of Singapore, which sees over 130,000 vessels calling annually, will be substantially higher.

Keppel O&M’s technology arm, Keppel Marine and Deepwater Technology, will work with the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine, Singapore (TCOMS) to develop various technologies to add to those available from ABB, and will act as the system integrator for the autonomous project.

Class society ABS will provide the Approval in Principle required for specialised features on the tugboat, such as the Remote Navigation Control and Autonomous Control System expected to be implemented on board.

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Rob O'Dwyer

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