ABB has agreed to refit a 32m tugboat so the Port of Singapore can use it to begin autonomous vessel operations by the end of 2020.
During the initial phase of the project, the tug 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 whilst 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,” says Juha Koskela, ABB Marine & Ports’ managing director.
“The intent of our technology is not to entirely remove the crew, but rather to relieve the crew from the tasks that can be automated, and therefore enable them to perform to their best capabilities during critical operations.”
ABB will be building on insights gained from its involvement in the trial of a remotely operated passenger ferry Suomenlinna II, carried out in Helsinki in November 2018.
The Port of Singapore – which sees more than 130,000 vessels calling annually – has exponentially denser shipping patterns, which will add another layer of complexity to the trials.
According to ABB, the trials will be aiming to validate the increased safety and efficiency of tug operations by utilizing digital solutions that are already available for nearly any kind of vessel.
Integral to the trials will be the ABB Ability Marine Pilot portfolio of solutions, which enables 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.
Tug operations, where a tugboat manoeuvres other vessels by pushing or towing them, often in crowded harbours, can be highly demanding.
Performing transits 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.