Abu Dhabi Ports and Robert Allan to collaborate on unmanned autonomous tugboats

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Capt. Maktoum Al Houqani, Chief Corporate Authority Officer, Abu Dhabi Ports, and Mike Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of Robert Allan Ltd. sign the landmark MoUt, in the presence of H.E. Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development, Cabinet Member, and Chairman of Federal Transport Authority - Land and Maritime (Photo - AETOSWire)

Under a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding Abu Dhabi Ports is collaborating with Vancouver, B.C., based naval architecture firm Robert Allan Ltd. to on the research and development of remotely-controlled marine tugs that will be fully unmanned, and be able to operate within a wide spectrum of autonomy.

Once developed, the tugs will join SAFEEN, Abu Dhabi Ports’ maritime service arm, which operates an expanding fleet of service vessels.

One of the primary advantages seen for the unmanned design is that, by shifting the human element from on-board to on-shore, the vessels will be able to operate in far more adverse weather conditions. Furthermore, the new technology will help increase efficiency and enhance operational safety.

“In line with our leadership’s guidance, this agreement marks a milestone in our digital transformation, and confirms our commitment to ensure the Emirate of Abu Dhabi strengthens its reputation as a leading centre for digital innovation regionally and globally,” said His Excellency Falah Mohammad Al Ahbabi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Ports. “It’s a top priority for Abu Dhabi Ports to lead the charge towards digitalizing the region’s maritime operations, and we are committed to providing a pioneering model for the sector. Adopting digital solutions and keeping up with the changing demands of global trade have proven to be key drivers for economic growth and are integral towards achieving our goal of being a smart port.”

“This agreement marks another qualitative addition to our digital armory that will enhance performance efficiency, productivity, transparency, and safety, as well as reduce costs,” said Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, Abu Dhabi Ports Group CEO. “Continuing our investment in technology and advanced infrastructure ensures the growth and sustainability of our business, and increases our contribution towards the diversification of Abu Dhabi’s knowledge-based economy.”

“We are excited to cooperate with Abu Dhabi Ports in this initiative, which provides us with an optimal opportunity to develop the world’s first fleet of remotely-operated tugboats for the commercial sector,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of Robert Allan Ltd. “The unique aspect of this project is the active participation of all the various stakeholders in Abu Dhabi and the UAE, which should ensure that we can progress smoothly from construction of the vessels to commercial operations.”

“Robert Allen Ltd. has been working on solutions to the technical challenges of an unmanned tugboat for several years now, but we were somewhat stalled in progressing to a commercial construction without an opportunity like this with Abu Dhabi Ports,” he added.

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