ABB Touts Autonomous Tug Contract
By Jack Burke21 October 2019
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-m harbor tugboat enabling autonomous vessel operations in the Port of Singapore at the end of 2020. 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 Offshore & Marine’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 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,” said Juha Koskela, managing director, ABB Marine & Ports. “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.”
With this project, ABB said it is taking the next step towards autonomous shipping, by building on the insights gained from the trial of a remotely operated passenger ferry Suomenlinna II, carried out in Helsinki harbor in November 2018. 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 company said.
The trials aim to validate the increased safety and efficiency of tug operations by utilizing digital solutions that are already available today for nearly any kind of vessel. 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. ABB Ability Marine Pilot Vision will provide the sensor fusion from existing and new systems to generate a digital situational awareness while ABB Ability Marine Pilot Control will execute the necessary conning commands, the company said.
Tug operations, where a tugboat maneuvers other vessels by pushing or towing them, often in crowded harbors, can be demanding. In addition, sometimes the tugs have to do 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, according to ABB.
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.