Svitzer reveals plans for world’s first fully remotely controlled tugboat

Svitzer A/S, Kongsberg Maritime and American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) have signed a deal to jointly develop the Recotug. This is to be the world’s first commercial tug to be fully operated from a remote operations centre on shore.

While Svitzer is bringing the needed operational experience, a newly built tug with crew as well as 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 bring the guidance and expertise necessary to obtain regulatory approval.

The aim of the Recotug project is to develop a remotely controlled tug that will be able to perform a full towage operation with all operations controlled from a remote operations centre. The solution and the achieved safety level is to lead to maritime authorities (class and flag) approving the technology, ultimately permitting Svitzer to conduct commercial remote tug operations in the Port of Copenhagen. The project is expected to run for the years to come.

Autonomy progressing fast

The near-shore environment of harbour towage, where Svitzer operates, is well-suited for remote controlling which 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,’ comments 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.’

Also read: The road towards autonomous ship handling with tugs

Remotely operated tug trial in Copenhagen

The project is a natural continuation of the first Svitzer/Kongsberg Maritime (formerly Rolls-Royce Marine) project announced in 2017 centred around remotely operated navigation of the Svitzer Hermod tug in the Port of Copenhagen. As a result of the project, the partners safely conducted a number of remotely controlled, non-towage specific manoeuvres on water. From the quay side in Copenhagen harbour, the vessel master, stationed at a remote operating centre, berthed the vessel alongside the quay, undocked, turned 360°, went for a sail and safely docked again.

‘At Kongsberg, we believe that digitalisation 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,’ says Egil Haugsdal, President, Kongsberg Maritime.

Picture: Recotug OPS Centre (by Svitzer, Kongsberg Maritime, ABS).

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.