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ABB to develop autonomous vessel technology in Singapore

During the initial phase of the project, the vessel will complete a series of navigational tasks in a designated test area in the port, steered from an onshore control centre.

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An illustration of the autonomous tugboat being developed
An illustration of the autonomous tugboat being developed

Autonomous vessel operations are scheduled to begin in the Port of Singapore at the end of 2020 following a landmark deal.

 

ABB, in collaboration with Keppel Marine and Deepwater Technology (KMDTech), will jointly develop the technology for autonomous vessels and retrofit a 32-metre harbour tugboat with leading-edge digital solutions. KMDTech is the technology arm of Singaporean shipyard, Keppel Offshore & Marine.

 

Series of navigational tasks

 

During the initial phase of the project, the vessel will complete a series of navigational tasks in a designated test area in the port, steered from an onshore control centre.

 

The second phase of the project will see the vessel perform autonomous collision avoidance tasks while under remote supervision. Upon project completion, the vessel is understood 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,” 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.”

 

With this project, ABB said it will build on the insights gained from its trial of a remotely operated passenger ferry, Suomenlinna II, carried out in Helsinki harbour last year.

“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”

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

 

The trials aim to validate the increased safety and efficiency of tug operations by utilising digital solutions that are already available today for nearly any kind of vessel.

 

According to ABB, integral to the trials will be its Ability Marine Pilot portfolio of solutions, which enable the “sense-decide-act” loop required for any form of autonomy.

 

Marine Pilot Vision will provide the sensor fusion from existing and new systems to generate a digital situational awareness while Marine Pilot Control will execute the necessary conning commands.

 

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.

 

American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) will provide the approval in principle (AIP) for the novel features such as remote navigation control and autonomous control system.

 

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