ABB and Keppel O&M Achieve Milestone in Autonomy with Remote Vessel Operation Trial in Port of Singapore


ABB, together with the Singaporean shipyard Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M), has successfully completed South Asia’s first joystick remote control of a tug in the busy port of Singapore.

The Port of Singapore, with more than 130,000 ships calling each year, presents one of the world’s most complex frameworks for autonomous port operations. The trial marks an important step in validating the increased safety and efficiency of tugboat operations using digital solutions already available today for almost all types of vessels.

Maju 510 harbor tug (Image courtesy: ABB)

The remote operation test of the harbor tug from an onshore control center located in the Maritime Innovation Laboratory of the Singapore Maritime and Ports Authority was successfully completed in April 2021. ABB provided an integrated solution for remote and autonomous vessel control based on the Ability ™ Marine Pilot product family. The digital ABB Ability ™ Marine Pilot Vision solution provided the fusion of on-board systems sensors to generate digital situational awareness, while the ABB Ability ™ marine pilot control system executed the necessary intelligent maneuver and control commands.

“We are proud to have taken another step forward which represents an important step towards autonomous navigation, in close collaboration with Keppel,” said Juha Koskela, Division President, ABB Marine & Ports. “The purpose of this technology is to relieve the crew of tasks that can be automated, allowing them to perform at their best during critical times and improve the overall safety and productivity of maritime operations. This trial also confirms the possibility of applying the technology remotely and autonomously to other types of vessels. “

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

South Asia’s first remote control joystick for a tugboat (Image Courtesy: ABB)

“Remote controlled navigation is an important feature of autonomous vessels because it acts as a backup and is particularly useful in certain complicated scenarios. As a global system integrator, Keppel O&M draws on its deep offshore and marine expertise and collaborates with the ecosystem of Keppel companies, such as M1 with its connectivity solutions, as well as with other partners such than ABB, which provided cutting-edge technology, to integrate the best systems and offer stand-alone, customizable solutions. This is in line with Keppel’s Vision 2030, which includes harnessing advanced technologies for growth, ”said Mr. Tan Leong Peng, General Manager (New Construction), Keppel O&M.

Tug operations, where a tugboat maneuvers other vessels by pushing or towing them, often in crowded harbors, can be extremely demanding and require the full attention of the crew. In addition, tugs often have to make long and monotonous transit trips to get to their place of operation. Carrying out the transit autonomously and under remote surveillance would allow the crew on board to rest and be vigilant when necessary in the actual work of the tug. Remotely Assisted Posting can also provide opportunities for the crew on board to rest rather than perform routine tasks that can be handled as effectively or better by the crew remotely.

“Keppel Smit Towage is delighted to support Keppel O&M and ABB in the development of self-contained tugs. As a tug operator, we leverage technology to improve our operations to better serve our customers. With the Maju 510 as the pilot tug, we are able to experience and provide feedback on how autonomous operations can help the tug captain and crew simplify their navigation to focus on critical tasks. This has the potential to dramatically improve operational safety and efficiency, ”said Mr. Romi Kaushal, Managing Director of Keppel Smit Towage.

ABB has already provided technology for the revolutionary test of a remote-controlled passenger ferry, Suomenlinna II, carried out in the port of Helsinki in November 2018, proving that human surveillance of ships from any location is achievable using technology currently available.

The harbor tug project is funded by the Singapore Maritime and Port Authority as part of the Singapore 2030 Maritime R&D Roadmap, which defines the country’s main areas of intervention 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 under remote supervision.

News from the Sea, June 21

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