Netherlands-based KOTUG has demonstrated what it said was the first sailing of a remotely controlled tugboat from a long-distance location.
Tug RT Borkum, located in Rotterdam, was controlled from the floor of the International Tug, Salvage & OSV Convention in Marseilles, France, a distance of some 700 miles. A KOTUG captain took over control of steering and engine systems using a secured internet connection.
KOTUG sees remote-controlled ships as the first step to unmanned and fully autonomous shipping, stating that “various simple operations in remote locations can already be done from remote controlled stations”, adding that “the real-time sensor technology makes it possible to give the remote control captain the situational awareness that is needed for safe operation”. Drone technology was used to connect the towline.
KOTUG said that one of the major barriers to unmanned shipping was establishing rules and regulations specific to autonomous vessels and their operation. It noted that “unmanned shipping does not yet comply with current rules and regulations. Therefore, rules need to be amended before tugs can actually start doing their tasks fully autonomous”.
KOTUG said that the demonstration of the RT Borkum was part of a joint industry project put on by sponsors without the help of subsidies.