Keppel Smit Towage is making its first move to develop autonomous tug operations by converting a harbour vessel to jointly deploy and test remote control technology in Singapore in 2020
Keppel Smit Towage will collaborate with ABB and Keppel Offshore & Marine’s technology arm Keppel Marine and Deepwater Technology (KMDTech) to trial autonomous tug operations.
They will retrofit a 32-m harbour tugboat with remote control and digital solutions to test unmanned operations.
Once the tug is upgraded, a series of navigational tasks in a designated test area in the Port of Singapore will be completed by remotely steering this tug from an onshore facility. A second phase of this project will test the vessel’s performance in autonomous collision avoidance tasks while under remote supervision.
These trials will test the ability of autonomous and remote monitoring technology to assist tug transits around congested ports.
ABB Marine & Ports managing director Juha Koskela said this technology would enable the onboard crew to rest and be alert when they are needed for ship towage and manoeuvring.
“The intent of our technology is not to entirely remove the crew,” he said. “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.”
Integral to these trials will be ABB Ability’s Marine Pilot digital technology portfolio. This will enable the ‘sense-decide-act’ loop required for autonomy.
ABB Ability’s Marine Pilot Vision will provide the sensor fusion from existing and new systems to generate a digital situational awareness while Marine Pilot Control will execute the necessary conning commands.
KMDTech will work with the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore and the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine, Singapore to develop the technologies. It will be the systems integrator for the autonomous solutions. Classification society ABS will provide the approval in principle for the technology features for remote navigation control and the autonomous control systems.
This is a different, but similar, project to the IntelliTug Project that involved retrofitting a PSA Marine tugboat with Wärtsilä’s technology for remote control and supervision during navigation tests in Singapore earlier this year.
Autonomous tug technology was presented at Riviera Maritime Media’s Smart Tug Operations Conference that was held in Singapore in September 2019.