Singapore-based yard Keppel Offshore & Marine has signed a contract with technology group ABB to develop autonomous (crewless) tug operation in the port of Singapore by the end of 2020.
ABB, in cooperation with Keppel O&M’s Keppel Marine and Deepwater Technology (KMDTech), will jointly develop the technology for autonomous vessels and refit a 32m-long harbour tugboat with digital equipment for operations with no crews. Upon project completion, the vessel is expected to be South Asia’s first autonomous tug.
During the initial phase of the project, the vessel, operated by Keppel O&M’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 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 increased safety and efficiency of tug operations by utilising digital solutions that are already available today for nearly any kind of vessel. Important for the trials will be ABB Ability Marine Pilot portfolio of equipment, which enable the “sense-decide-act” loop required for any form of autonomy. Classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) will provide the approval in principle for the novel features such as remote navigation control and autonomous.