Kotug drives a Rotterdam Rotortug - from Marseille

The Rotortug 'RT Borkum' in Rotterdam was remotely controlled from Marseille (Kotug) The Rotortug 'RT Borkum' in Rotterdam was remotely controlled from Marseille (Kotug)

Kotug has driven a Rotterdam tug remotely from a console 1,200km away in Marseille, demonstrating an industry meeting automation head-on.

It was suitable for ITS 2018 to be chosen (see elsewhere in this edition) given the recurring theme throughout the conference of automation including remote-controlled and autonomous vessels. The vessel selected for the demonstration was Rotortug’s in-house training tug RT Borkum based in central Rotterdam.

Alphatron’s Rotortug bridge simulator is a regular sight at trade exhibitions and it was from there that an experienced Kotug master took over control of the tug via remote secured internet line and camera images. The cameras and control of the tug were used on the demonstration consoles on Alphatron’s stand in Marseille.

Kotug believe unmanned remote-controlled ships will be the first step to unmanned autonomous shipping. Basic operations in remote locations can already be carried out from remote stations as Kotug uses its Rotterdam simulator for further testing of unmanned operation tasks. Real-time sensor technology makes it possible to provide the remote-control captain with the situational awareness needed for safe operation.

Kotug state that combined with drone technology to connect the towline, unmanned shipping is commercially and technically getting closer. As unmanned shipping does not yet comply with current regulations, rules need to be amended before tugs can commence their tasks in a fully autonomous manner.

An interesting consideration will be how long such regulation changes, possibly on a global scale involving amendments to the collision regulations will take. Demonstrations such as this along with now well-established use of remote telemetry monitoring of tugs’ systems and with distance between vessel and receiver seemingly not at issue, the industry is ensuring it is well-positioned technically when current barriers are removed.

Returning to the RT Borkum trial, it was a joint industry project involving various stakeholders headed by Rotortug, owner of RT Borkum and project managers Kotug (along with the MAROF student thesis ‘Remote controlled tug boat’) Also involved were: Alphatron providing camera visualisation and system integration in the consoles; Veth, steering and engine control system integration between console and tug; OnBoard, conversion of the control signals to internet protocol and vice-versa and finally M2M Blue for a stable data connection with VPN tunnel (4G and LAN connection combined).

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