Singapore carries out South Asia’s first remote joystick control of tugboat

ABB, together with Singaporean shipyard Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M), has successfully carried out South Asia’s first remote joystick control of a tugboat in the busy Port of Singapore.  The trial of remotely operating the harbor tug from a shore command center located at the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s Maritime Innovation Lab was successfully performed in April 2021. 

The harbor tug project is funded by the Maritime and Port Authority of 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.

The Port of Singapore, with more than 130,000 vessels calling annually, presents one of the most complex settings for autonomous harbor operations in the world. The trial marks a major milestone in validating the increased safety and efficiency of tug operations utilizing digital solutions already available today for nearly any kind of vessel.

Tug operations, where a tugboat maneuvers other vessels by pushing or towing them, often in crowded harbors, can be extremely demanding, requiring the full attention of the crew. Additionally, tugs often have to complete lengthy and monotonous transit legs to get to their place of operation. 

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. Station keeping with remote assistance may also provide opportunities for onboard crew to rest rather than performing routine tasks that can be managed as effectively or better by remote crew.

ABB has delivered an integrated solution for the remote and autonomous control of the vessel based on the Ability™ Marine Pilot product family. The digital solution ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Vision provided the sensor fusion from onboard systems to generate a digital situational awareness, while ABB Ability™ Marine Pilot Control system executed the necessary intelligent maneuvering and control commands.

ABB’s technology and Keppel O&M’s technology solutions were retrofitted on the 32-m harbor tugboat Maju 510. The vessel is owned and operated by Keppel O&M’s joint-venture company Keppel Smit Towage.

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