ABB and Keppel O&M’s technology arm, Keppel Marine and Deepwater Technology (KMDTech, plan to jointly develop the technology for autonomous vessels and retrofit a 32-meter harbor tugboat with digital solutions. The aim is to enable autonomous vessel operations in the Port of Singapore at the end of 2020. On completion of the project, it is anticipated that the vessel will be South Asia’s first autonomous tug.
In the initial phase of the project, the vessel, operated by Keppel Offshore & Marine’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.
“This project is a key marker on our digital journey as it demonstrates our capabilities as a leader in intelligent shipping technology and proves the success of our Electric. Digital. Connected. vision for the maritime industry,” said Juha Koskela, Managing Director, ABB Marine & Ports. “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.”
The project builds on 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 far denser shipping patterns than Helsinki, which will add another layer of complexity to the trials.
The trials aim to validate that the safety and efficiency of tug operations can be increased 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.
Tug operations, where a tugboat maneuvers other vessels by pushing or towing them, often in crowded harbors, can be demanding. In addition, sometimes the tugs have to do long transits to get to their destination. 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 Center for Offshore and Marine, Singapore (TCOMS) to develop various technologies and will be the system integrator for the autonomous solutions. American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) will provide the Approval in Principle for the tug’s novel features such as Remote Navigation Control and Autonomous Control System.