Project aims to develop world’s first fully remote-controlled commercial tug

Written by Nick Blenkey
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RECOTUG Ops Center. [Image: Svitzer, Kongsberg Maritime, ABS]

The Maersk group’s global towage operator Svitzer has signed an agreement with Kongsberg Maritime and ABS to develop RECOTUG, the world’s first fully operational, and fully remotely controlled tugboat.

Svitzer’s contributions to the project will include its operational experience, a newly built tugboat along with crew and tug specific technical solutions, Kongsberg Maritime will provide the remote control systems and the autonomous technology and lead the integration of systems and technology. ABS will provide the guidance and expertise necessary to obtain regulatory approval.

The aim is to develop a remotely controlled tug be able perform a full towage operation with all operations controlled from a remote operations center. An objective is to attain classification society and flag state approval, ultimately permitting Svitzer to conduct commercial remote tug operations in the port of Copenhagen.

“We are delighted to work with Svitzer and ABS on this important collaboration,” said Kongsberg Maritime president Egil Haugsdal. “Kongsberg Maritime is leading the market in maritime autonomy and is involved in several projects that define the remote and autonomous vessel control systems for tomorrow; this venture takes that ground-breaking work a step further by integrating these key technologies into a new context of operation.

“At Kongsberg, we believe that digitalization and enhanced automation are vital to ensuring a safe, sustainable and profitable future for the maritime industry, and the step forward represented by this project is of great importance in demonstrating the application.”


The project is a continuation of a Svitzer/Kongsberg Maritime (formerly Rolls-Royce Marine) project announced in 2017 that centered around the remotely operated navigation of the tug Svitzer Hermod in the Port of Copenhagen.

As a result of the project, the partners safely conducted a number of remotely controlled, non-towage specific maneuvers on water. From the quay side in Copenhagen harbor the vessel master, stationed at a remote operating center, berthed the vessel alongside the quay, undocked, turned 360 degrees, went for a sail and safely docked again.


Svitzer says that the near-shore environment of harbor towage, where it operates, is well-suited for remote control. This requires full connectivity and Svitzer is excited to be partnering up with Kongsberg Maritime and ABS.

“While we are still several years away from seeing remotely operated tugs with no crew on board in commercial operation, there is no doubt that advanced autonomy is progressing fast across the maritime industry,” says Ingrid Uppelschoten Snelderwaard, Svitzer’s global COO. “At Svitzer, we are determined to be at the forefront of the innovation in this space to ensure we are well positioned to meet changing demands. We start with one tug and explore from there how to best leverage technology, improve safety and efficiency and meet our customer’s demand for reliable and cost-efficient services, also in the future.

“Technology is changing our lives across the board and at Svitzer we want to influence and drive how technology will transform towage over time. Safety comes first, and this entire project is first and foremost relying on the implied safety case.”

“As safety moves away from the things you can see and touch, to things you cannot see such as software and data, ABS has been spearheading development of next generation safety approaches that draw on our expertise as a technical integrator,” said Christopher Wiernicki, ABS chairman, president and CEO. “As a result of this tradition of constant innovation, we are uniquely well placed to support this project, which is genuinely breaking new ground for the entire industry. Greater industry collaboration is going to be key to meeting the challenges of digitalization and maritime sustainability, so ABS is proud to be part of a team that has such a significant role to play in shaping the direction of both.”

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