South Asia’s first remote joystick control of a tugboat recently took place in the busy Port of Singapore, as part of a joint project of technology company ABB with Singaporean shipyard Keppel Offshore & Marine.
he trial of remotely operating the harbor tug from a shore command center located at MPA Singapore’s Maritime Innovation Lab was successfully performed in April 2021. The trial marked a milestone for safer tug operations in a port presenting one of the most complex settings for autonomous harbor operations in the world, with more than 130,000 vessels calling annually.
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 types,
…said Juha Koskela, Division President, ABB Marine & Ports.
The technology was retrofitted on the 32-m harbor tugboat Maju 510, owned and operated by Keppel O&M’s joint-venture company Keppel Smit Towage. Tug operations, where a tugboat maneuvers other vessels by pushing or towing them, often in crowded harbors, can be extremely demanding but 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.
The harbor tug project is funded by MPA Singapore as part of the Singapore Maritime R&D Roadmap 2030 which charts out the nation’s key focus areas for the development of the maritime industry, as well as research and technological capabilities. The second phase of the project, scheduled for late 2021, will see the vessel perform autonomous collision avoidance tasks while under remote supervision.