Kotug has used the occasion of Innovation Expo 2018 in Rotterdam to demonstrate once again its remote-controlled tug development.
This time there has been the addition of a remote fire-fighting capability. In 1999 your correspondent witnessed first-hand the Gravesend-based tug Sun Mercia as it was completely enveloped in toxic smoke while fighting a fire on the container ship Ever Decent following collision with a cruise ship off the Kent coast. There was serious concern for the safety of the crew on the tug followed by much relief when the tug reappeared from the smoke and while such hazards are part of salvage operations it illustrates the human factor considerations required with close-proximity fire-fighting.
The technical feasibility of unmanned remotely-controlled tugs has been demonstrated on several occasion now including by Kotug and as well as eliminating risks to crews during normal shiphandling operations the concept could allow fire-fighting operations close to burning ships otherwise not possible for manned tugs due to smoke, heat and explosion hazards. Similarly, Robert Allan Ltd and Kongsberg Maritime are collaborating on development of the remotely-operated RALamander fireboat for ports.
This recent demonstration of remotely-controlled sailing along with remotely-controlled fire-fighting is a next step in the story that Kotug believes will lead ultimately to unmanned autonomous shipping: once again the training Rotortug RT Borkum was employed for the demonstration. Real-time sensor technology provides the ‘remote-control’ captain with the situational awareness required but Kotug point out that unmanned shipping does not yet comply with current rules and regulations, such rules needing to be amended before tugs can start operating autonomously. Kotug is using its Rotterdam simulator for further testing of unmanned operation tasks.
The demonstration was a joint industry project (with no external subsidy) sponsored by a number of stakeholders including: Alphatron for camera visualisation and system integration in the consoles; Kotug, project management and supported MAROF student with thesis “Remote controlled tug boat”; KPN, 4G data sim cards for internet connection; M2M Blue, data connection with VPN tunnel (4G and LAN combined); OnBoard, conversion of steering and engine control signals to internet protocol and vice versa; Rotortug, owner of RT Borkum; and finally Veth, steering and engine control system to take over from local console to remote control and vice versa.
By Peter Barker