ABB to enable autonomous tug operations at the Port of Singapore
ABB has inked a contract with Singaporean shipyard Keppel Offshore & Marine to enable autonomous tug operation in 2020, the company said in a release.
Under the terms of the agreement, 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-meter harbor tugboat with digital solutions, enabling autonomous vessel operations in the Port of Singapore at the end of 2020. Upon project completion, the vessel is anticipated to be South Asia’s first autonomous tug, ABB said.
During the initial phase of the project, the vessel 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 for 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.”
ABB carried out a trial of a remotely operated passenger ferry in the Helsinki harbor in November 2018.
The trials in Singapore aim to validate the increased safety and efficiency of tug operations by utilizing digital solutions that are already available today for nearly any kind of vessel, ABB said.
Integral to the trials will be ABB’s Ability Marine Pilot portfolio of solutions, which enable a “sense-decide-act” loop that the company says is 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, the company said.
ABB also explained that 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, ABB said.
KMDTech will work with the Maritime 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.
Earlier this month, ABB won a contract from ST Engineering Land Systems to deliver and commission integrated smart charging points for automated guided vehicles (AGV) in the new Tuas port of Singapore.
Deliveries of the vehicles, which will be deployed to transport heavy shipping containers at the port terminal, are scheduled to begin from September 2020 through to August 2022. Under the contract, ABB chargers and supporting infrastructure is expected to be installed towards the end of 2020.
ABB’s main focus areas are electrification, industrial automation, robotic and discrete automation.