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World’s first remotely-controlled commercial tug to be developed

remotely-controlled commercial tug
Aerial drone photo of tug boat cruising in high speed near cruise liner docked in Mediterranean port

Svitzer, Kongsberg Maritime and ABS join forces to develop the world’s first remotely-controlled commercial tug

Global towage operator Svitzer A/S, Kongsberg Maritime and ABS recently announced their agreement to develop RECOTUG™, the world’s first fully operational and remotely controlled tugboat. All three parties will be responsible for the respective components:

  • Svitzer A/S is to provide a newly built tug with the crew, operational experience as well as tug-specific technical solutions
  • Kongsberg Maritime is to provide remote control systems, autonomous technology and lead the integration of both.
  • ABS will be responsible for providing guidance and the necessary expertise to obtain regulatory approval.

The completed RECOTUG™ will perform a full towage operation, fully controlled remotely from an operations centre. It will eventually be conducting commercial remote tug operations in Copenhagen’s port – upon approval for class and flag, as well as safety levels from maritime authorities.

Demonstrating inter-firm collaboration
Egil Haugsdal, president of Kongsberg Maritime, commented: “We are delighted to work with Svitzer and ABS on this important collaboration. Leading the market in maritime autonomy and involved in several projects that define the remote and autonomous vessel control systems for tomorrow; our venture takes that ground-breaking work a step further by integrating these key technologies into a new context of operation.”

He added, “At Kongsberg, we believe that digitalisation and enhanced automation are vital to ensure 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.”

The project follows the first Svitzer/Kongsberg Maritime collaboration announced in 2017 – revolved around remotely operated navigation of the Svitzer Hermod tug in the Port of Copenhagen. Both partners safely conducted several remotely controlled, non-towage-specific manoeuvres on water upon completion of the tug. From the Copenhagen harbour’s quay side, the vessel master berthed the vessel alongside the quay, undocked, turned 360° for another voyage and safely docked again. All operations were executed remotely from an operating centre.

The near-shore harbour environment, where Svitzer operates, is well-suited for remote controlling which requires full connectivity and Svitzer is excited to partner with Kongsberg Maritime and ABS. Ingrid Uppelschoten Snelderwaard, Svitzer’s global chief operating officer, commented: “While we are still several years away from seeing remotely operated tugs with no crew onboard in commercial operation, there is no doubt that advanced autonomy is progressing fast across the maritime industry.

“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 how to best leverage technology, improve safety and efficiency and meet our customer’s demand for reliable and cost-efficient services. Technology is changing our lives 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.”

Christopher Wiernicki, chairman, president and CEO of ABS, remarked: “As a data-centric organisation, ABS is a leader in the maritime application of digital technologies. As safety moves away from the things you can see and touch, to things you cannot see such as software and data, ABS has been spearheading development of next generation safety approaches that draw on our expertise as a technical integrator.

“As a result of constant innovation, we are well placed to support this project, which is genuinely breaking new grounds for the entire industry. Greater industry collaboration is going to be key to meet the challenges of digitalisation and maritime sustainability. ABS is proud to be part of a team that has such a significant role to play in shaping the direction of both.”




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