Technology firm ABB has signed a contract with Singaporean shipyard Keppel Offshore & Marine to enable autonomous tug operation at the Port of Singapore by the end of 2020.
As informed, ABB, in collaboration with Keppel O&M’s Keppel Marine and Deepwater Technology (KMDTech), will jointly develop the technology for autonomous vessels and retrofit a 32-meter harbor tugboat with digital solutions.
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 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 center. 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,” Juha Koskela, Managing Director, ABB Marine & Ports, explained.
With this project, ABB takes the next step towards autonomous shipping, building on the insights gained from the groundbreaking 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 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.
According to ABB, 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.