Netherlands-based KOTUG has demonstrated what it says is the first sailing of a remotely controlled tugboat from a long-distance location.
For the demonstration, the tug RT Borkum, located in Rotterdam, was controlled from the floor of the International Tug, Salvage & OSV Convention, which was taking place over 700 miles away in Marseille, France.
A KOTUG captain took over control of steering and engine systems using a secured internet connection and live cameras.
KOTUG says it believes that remote-controlled ships are the first step to unmanned and fully autonomous shipping down the road. “Various simple operations in remote locations can already be done from remote controlled stations,” the company stated.
“The real-time sensor technology makes it possible to give the remote control captain the situational awareness that is needed for safe operation,” according to KOTUG. “Combined with the drone technology to connect the towline, unmanned shipping is commercially and technically getting closer.”
One of the hurdles to unmanned shipping, KOTUG says, is establishing rules and regulations specific to autonomous vessels and their operation.
“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 stated.
In May, the International Maritime Organization took what some described as important first steps towards regulating unmanned ships by agreeing to the definition of “Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS)” and establishing an initial framework for regulations.
KOTUG notes that the demonstration of the RT Borkum was part of a joint industry project put on by sponsors without the help of subsidies.