Harbour tugs are likely to be one of the first vessel classes to become autonomous as it improves safety and lowers operating costs by removing the crew. Wärtsilä vice president for commercial operations Mike Ford said greater interest in automation should lead to the use of autonomous tugs for harbour and terminal operations.
“This is a technical trend that we are seeing. We may have autonomous tugs towing and manoeuvring autonomous container ships,” he explained at Riviera Maritime Media’s European Dynamic Positioning Conference in London.
He added: “Ultimately we will see levels three to four of automation. We can expect remote control of tugs operating in harbours and more automation in shipping,” But he admitted that docking operations will still require a captain to supervise ship manoeuvring.
Tug designer Robert Allan Ltd has considered autonomous tugs. Executive chairman of that company, Robert Allan, recently told Tug Technology & Business that it will not be long before the autonomous tugboat is a reality.
He said: “That may be 5 years or even 10 years away, but we are convinced it will happen, and most likely in the form of our RAmoRA master-slave concept we introduced in 2015. The hurdles to the adoption of this technology are not technical but regulatory and jurisdictional, Mr Allan suggested.”
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Source: Tug Technology & Business