Kotug Shows How Remotely Operated Tugs Can Work


Port towage services provider Kotug demonstrated how tugboat operators could remotely control a vessel to sail over long distances to audiences at the International Tug, Salvage & OSV Convention and Exhibition (ITS) ITS in the French city of Marseille today.

Kotug controlled the tugboat ‘RT Borkum’ at the event while it was sailing in Rotterdam.

A captain took over the control of the tug via a remote secured internet line and camera images while at the demo consoles in Marseille.

Kotug believes that unmanned remote-controlled ships will be the first step to unmanned autonomous shipping, and will use its Rotterdam simulator for further testing of operational tasks.


Stakeholders that contributed to the Kotug demo project :

  • Rotortug: Owner of the RT Borkum

  • Alphatron: Camera visualization and system integration in the consoles

  • Veth: Steering and engine control system to take over from local console to remote control and vice versa

  • OnBoard: conversion of the steering and engine control signal to internet protocol and vice versa

  • M2M Blue: Stable data connection with VPN tunnel (4G and LAN connection combined)

  • Kotug: Project management and supported MAROF student with thesis 'Remote controlled tugboat'


Read a Port Technology technical paper by Yang Zhou and Xavier Bellsolà Olba of Delft University of Technology on autonomous shipping and nautical traffic in ports

In an announcement, Kotug stated: “Various simple operations in remote locations can already be done from remote-controlled stations.

“The real-time sensor technology makes it possible to give the remote control captain the situational awareness that is needed for safe operation.

“Combined with the drone technology to connect the towline, unmanned shipping is commercially and technically getting closer.

“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.”

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