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Keppel, ABB to bring autonomous tug operation to Singapore in 2020

Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) and ABB have teamed up to bring autonomous tug operation to Singapore waters in 2020.

ABB, in collaboration with Keppel O&M’s technology arm Keppel Marine and Deepwater Technology (KMDTech) will jointly develop the technology for autonomous vessels and retrofit a 32-metre tugboat with digital solutions.

Upon project completion scheduled at the end of 2020, the vessel is anticipated to be South Asia’s first autonomous tug.

“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 of ABB Marine & Ports.

“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 thus enable them to perform at their best during critical operations,” Koskela added.

During the initial phase of the project, the vessel, operated by Keppel O&M’s joint venture firm Keppel Smit Towage, will complete a series of navigational tasks in a designated test area in Singapore port, steered from an onshore control centre.

The second phase will see the vessel perform autonomous collision avoidance tasks while under remote supervision.

The port of Singapore, which sees over 130,000 vessels calling annually, has exponentially denser shipping patterns which add another layer of complexity to the trials.

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.

KMDTech will work with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine, Singapore (TCOMS) to develop various technologies and be the system integrator for the autonomous solutions.

ABB said it can build on its insights gained from the trial of a remotely operated passenger ferry Suomenlinna II, carried out in Helsinki harbour in November 2018.