Developing world’s first fully remotely controlled commercial tug


Building on previous efforts at testing a remotely controlled tugboat in Copenhagen harbor, a new project is launching to develop the world’s first commercial tug to be fully operated from a remote operation center onshore. Tug and towboat operator Svitzer will be working with Kongsberg Maritime and ABS in a project expected to run for several years to jointly develop RECOTUG.

Under the agreement, Svitzer will suppl a newly built tug along with a crew and its expertise in tug operations and technical issues and Kongsberg Maritime will provide the remote control systems and the autonomous technology as well as leading the integration of systems and technology. ABS will provide the expertise and guidance to obtain regulatory approval.

The project aims to develop a remotely controlled tug that will be able to perform a full towage operation with all operations controlled from a remote operations center. The partners believe the solutions developed in this project will 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 near-shore environment of harbor towage Svitzer says is well-suited for remote controlling which requires full connectivity.

“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,” said Ingrid Uppelschoten Snelderwaard, Svitzer’s global COO. “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 will 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.”

The project is the continuation of efforts that Svitzer and Kongsberg Maritime announced in 2017 that explored remotely operated navigation of the Svitzer Hermod tug in the Port of Copenhagen. As a result of the project, the partners safely conducted several remotely controlled, non-towage specific maneuvers. From the quay side in Copenhagen harbor, the vessel master, stationed at a remote operating center, berthed the vessel alongside the quay, undocked, turned 360°, sailed the vessel in the harbor, and again safely docked the tug.