South Asia’s first remotely controlled tug operation completed

Technology company ABB and Singaporean shipyard Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) have successfully carried out what they claim to be South Asia’s first remote joystick control of a tugboat in the Port of Singapore.


As disclosed, the operation trial was completed from the shore command center located at the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s Maritime Innovation Lab in April 2021, while the initial contract between the companies was signed in 2019.

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The project comes several months late since the companies agreed to perform the autonomous tug operation by the end of 2020.

To complete the operation trial, a 32-meter harbour tugboat, Maju 510, was retrofitted with new digital solutions.

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As informed, the ship was equipped with ABB’s digital solutions, which provided the sensor fusion from onboard systems and executed the necessary intelligent maneuvering and control commands.  

“The intent of this technology is to relieve the crew of tasks that can be automated, enabling them to perform at their best during critical periods and enhancing the overall safety and productivity of marine operations. This trial also confirms the possibility for application of remote and autonomous technology to other vessel types,” said Juha Koskela, Division President, ABB Marine & Ports.

The vessel is owned and operated by Keppel O&M’s joint-venture company, Keppel Smit Towage.

“With the Maju 510 as a pilot tug, we are able to experience and provide feedback on how autonomous operations can help the tug captain and crew in simplifying their navigation to focus on crucial tasks. This has the potential to significantly enhance operational safety and efficiency,” said Romi Kaushal, Managing Director of Keppel Smit Towage.

Tan Leong Peng, Managing Director (New Builds) of Keppel O&M also stressed that the project is “in line with Keppel’s Vision 2030, which includes harnessing advanced technologies for growth.”

The harbour tug project is funded by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore as part of the Singapore Maritime R&D Roadmap 2030 which charts out key focus areas for the development of the maritime industry, as well as research and technological capabilities.

The second phase of the project, scheduled for late 2021, will see the vessel perform autonomous collision avoidance tasks while under remote supervision.