First remote-controlled tug tested in Port of Singapore

2021/06/22 at 9:43 AM

The Port of Singapore became the first harbour in South Asia where a remote-controlled tug was tested. To this end, the port authority joined forces with Singaporean shipyard Keppel Offshore & Marine and Norwegian technology company ABB. By the year’s end, the partners will carry out the second phase of the tests.

Since the Port of Singapore is among the most congested harbours in South Asia with more than 130,000 vessels calling annually, the enhancement of tug operations is crucial for its future. Therefore, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore funded the harbour tug project dedicated to implementation of the autonomous solutions.

Tugboat Maju 510 equipped with remote-controlled technology from ABB, source: ABB

ABB and Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) supported the port authority in this area: ABB delivered its technology while Keppel O&M provided the 32-metre-long harbour tugboat Maju 510. The first phase of the trials was successfully performed from a shore command centre located at the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s Maritime Innovation Lab in April. Meanwhile, the second phase of the project is scheduled for late 2021 and it will be dedicated to the vessel perform autonomous collision avoidance tasks while under remote supervision.

ABB’s solution

For the trial remote-controlled tug operations in the Port of Singapore, ABB delivered an integrated solution for the remote and autonomous control of the vessel based on the Ability Marine Pilot product family. The digital solution ABB Ability Marine Pilot Vision provided the sensor fusion from onboard systems to generate a digital situational awareness, while ABB Ability Marine Pilot Control system executed the necessary intelligent manoeuvring and control commands. The solution was tested for the first time in Helsinki harbour in November 2018.

Remote-controlled tug operations provided from a shore command in centre in the Port of Singapore, source: ABB

Remote control

Tug operations, where a tugboat manoeuvres other vessels by pushing or towing them, often in crowded harbours, can be extremely demanding, requiring the full attention of the crew. Additionally, tugs often have to complete lengthy and monotonous transit legs to get to their place of operation. Performing the transit autonomously and under remote supervision would enable the onboard crew to rest and be alert when they are needed in the actual work of the tug. Station keeping with remote assistance may also provide opportunities for onboard crew to rest rather than performing routine tasks that can be managed as effectively or better by remote crew.

“The intent of this technology is to relieve the crew of tasks that can be automated, enabling them to perform at their best during critical periods and enhancing the overall safety and productivity of marine operations. This trial also confirms the possibility for application of remote and autonomous technology to other vessel type,” said Juha Koskela, the division president at ABB Marine & Ports.

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