Singapore is getting autonomous tug boats in 2020 thanks to ABB

Most of our attention has been on autonomous vehicles that drive down our freeways, but there are other vehicle industries that are also being disrupted. In 2020, Singaporean shipyard...

Most of our attention has been on autonomous vehicles that drive down our freeways, but there are other vehicle industries that are also being disrupted.

In 2020, Singaporean shipyard Keppel Offshore & Marine, will being the use of autonomous tug boats. When you think about the challenge of automating the role of a tug boat, its fairly straight forward, given the right set of data and connectivity.

ABB, in collaboration with Keppel O&M’s technology arm, Keppel Marine and Deepwater Technology (KMDTech), will jointly develop the technology for autonomous vessels and retrofit a 32-meter harbor tugboat. Upon project completion, the vessel is anticipated to be South Asia’s first autonomous tug.

During the initial phase of the project, the vessel, operated by 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 center. The second phase of the project will see the vessel perform autonomous collision avoidance tasks while under remote supervision.

“This project is a key marker on our digital journey as it demonstrates our capabilities as a leader in intelligent shipping technology and proves the success of our Electric. Digital. Connected. vision for the maritime industry.

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.”

Juha Koskela, Managing Director, ABB Marine & Ports.

The Port of Singapore, which sees over 130,000 vessels calling annually, has exponentially denser shipping patterns, which will add another layer of complexity to the trials.

The trials aim to validate the safety and efficiency of tug operations. Integral to the trials will be ABB Ability Marine Pilot portfolio of solutions, which enable the ‘sense-decide-act’ loop required for any form of autonomy.

Tug operations, where a tugboat maneuvers other vessels by pushing or towing them, often in crowded harbours, can be demanding. In addition, the tugs often have long transits to get to their destination. 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.

KMDTech will work with the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine, Singapore (TCOMS) to develop various technologies and be the system integrator for the autonomous solutions. American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) will provide the Approval in Principle for the novel features such as Remote Navigation Control and Autonomous Control System.

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
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