Following autonomous collision avoidance trials conducted at Raffles Reserved Anchorage, off Singapore Island, in March 2022, the harbour tug Maju 510 has become the first vessel in the world to receive Autonomous and Remote-Control Navigation Notation from classification society ABS. The vessel uses ABB’s digital technologies.

Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) is the project lead for the autonomous solutions on the Maju 510, which is owned and operated by Keppel Smit Towage, a member of Rimorchiatori Mediterranei. The vessel had already distinguished itself as the world’s first vessel to secure the ABS Remote-Control Navigation Notation, following initial remote operation trials at the Port of Singapore in April 2021.

The latest trials verified next level of autonomy, demonstrating automated situational awareness, collision avoidance, and manoeuvring control provided by ABB Ability Marine Pilot Vision and Marine Pilot Control. In addition to the ABS notation, the Maju 510 is also the first Singapore-flagged vessel to receive the Smart (Autonomous) Notation from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

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Avoiding collisions in various scenarios

The 32-metre-long tug demonstrated its ability to autonomously avoid collisions in various scenarios, such as when two other vessels approach simultaneously on colliding paths and when a nearby vessel behaves erratically. The trials were supervised by an onboard tug master.

Romi Kaushal, Managing Director of Keppel Smit Towage: ‘What I found particularly impressive was how the digital system identified one or several risks in the tug’s planned path and responded to set the vessel on a new, safer course. The vessel performed as if it was operated by an experienced tug master.’

By allowing the crew to focus on the overall situation rather than on performing specific manoeuvres, the ABB Ability Marine Pilot product family enhances safety and efficiency in tug operations, which is particularly important in congested shipping hubs like Singapore, the world’s busiest container port. Furthermore, the systems can be upgraded to enable higher levels of autonomy depending on local regulations and the requirements of the vessel.

Aziz Merchant, Executive Director, Keppel O&M: ‘By liberating the crew of time and energy-consuming tasks and improving accuracy during critical manoeuvres, our autonomous solution has proven its ability to increase safety in even the busiest of ports. The autonomous solutions are future-ready to handle the growing demand of tug operations in Singapore port. Through digitalisation, enhanced connectivity, and integrating ABB’s technology, we are able to generate high accuracy positioning and manoeuvring, with AI engines for marine object recognition and classification.’

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Suomenlinna II

In an earlier successful demonstration of ABB’s autonomous technology, the ice-class passenger ferry Suomenlinna II was remotely piloted through the Helsinki harbor. Like Maju 510, Suomenlinna II had been retrofitted with ABB Ability Marine Pilot Vision and ABB Ability Marine Pilot Control.

According to ABB, most, if not all vessels could benefit from a higher level of automation for improved safety, efficiency and sustainability of operations. Optimized maneuvering helps to prevent accidents, enhance productivity and reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

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Picture: The Maju 510 tug performing autonomous navigation (by ABB).