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Abu Dhabi Ports to develop the world’s first autonomous commercial tugboats

March 11, 2020: Abu Dhabi Ports announced its collaboration with a global commercial vessel designer and tugboat leader, Robert Allan, to develop the world’s first fully unmanned autonomous commercial marine tugs.

Shifting the human element from on-board to on-shore will allow vessels to operate in far more adverse weather conditions.
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Shifting the human element from on-board to on-shore will allow vessels to operate in far more adverse weather conditions.

March 11, 2020: Abu Dhabi Ports announced its collaboration with a global commercial vessel designer and tugboat leader, Robert Allan, to develop the world’s first fully unmanned autonomous commercial marine tugs.

Once developed, the tugs will join SAFEEN, Abu Dhabi Ports’ maritime service arm, which maintains an expanding fleet of world-class service vessels. One of the primary advantages of the design includes greater capability, as shifting the human element from on-board to on-shore, will allow such vessels to operate in far more adverse weather conditions. Furthermore, the new technology will help increase efficiency and enhance operational safety.

Abu Dhabi Ports will be working with one of Canada’s oldest privately-owned Naval Architectural and Marine Engineering firms on the research and development of remotely-controlled marine tugs that will be fully unmanned and be able to operate within a wide spectrum of autonomy.
The two entities have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to this effect at the International Maritime Organization gathering in London.

Falah Mohammad Al Ahbabi, chairman, Abu Dhabi Ports said: “In line with our leadership’s guidance, this agreement marks a milestone in our digital transformation, and confirms our commitment to ensure the Emirate of Abu Dhabi strengthens its reputation as a leading centre for digital innovation regionally and globally. It’s a top priority for Abu Dhabi Ports to lead the charge towards digitalising the region’s maritime operations, and we are committed to providing a pioneering model for the sector. Adopting digital solutions and keeping up with the changing demands of global trade have proven to be key drivers for economic growth and are integral towards achieving our goal of being a smart port.

“Developing solutions and building strategic partnerships with industry experts will help achieve a paradigm shift in maritime operations worldwide, and globally in line with the directives of the leadership.”

Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, CEO, Abu Dhabi Ports Group, said: “Our cooperation with Robert Allan to develop a new generation of tugboats equipped with superior capabilities and modern technologies, reflects our commitment to ensuring that the infrastructure at Abu Dhabi Ports is at the cutting edge. We are engaged to provide smart and innovative digital solutions to the marine trade and port community, and to our valued customers. This agreement marks another qualitative addition to our digital armoury that will enhance performance efficiency, productivity, transparency, and safety, as well as reduce costs. Continuing our investment in technology and advanced infrastructure ensures the growth and sustainability of our business, and increases our contribution towards the diversification of Abu Dhabi’s knowledge-based economy.”

Mike Fitzpatrick, president and CEO, Robert Allan Ltd., said: “We are excited to cooperate with Abu Dhabi Ports in this initiative, which provides us with an optimal opportunity to develop the world’s first fleet of remotely-operated tugboats for the commercial sector. The unique aspect of this project is the active participation of all the various stakeholders in Abu Dhabi and the UAE, which should ensure that we can progress smoothly from the construction of the vessels to commercial operations.”

“Robert Allen Ltd. has been working on solutions to the technical challenges of an unmanned tugboat for several years now, but we were somewhat stalled in progressing to a commercial construction without an opportunity like this with Abu Dhabi Ports.”


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