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Abu Dhabi Ports places order for world’s first autonomous tugboats

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Designed to be controlled remotely, but with a high degree of autonomy

Abu Dhabi Ports is set to become the owner of the world’s first fleet of autonomous commercial tugboats.

The unmanned vessels will be designed and built by Canadian marine engineering firm Robert Allan. They will be controlled remotely, but also “able to operate within a wide spectrum of autonomy.”

The port authority believes that removing people from the tug will increase efficiency, enhance safety and enable the vessels to operate better in adverse weather conditions.

Abu Dhabi Ports and Robert Allan signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Wednesday, but just when the tugs will enter service is currently unclear.

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Abu Dhabi Ports is responsible for administering the emirate’s eleven commercial, logistics, community and leisure ports, including the flagship deep-water Khalifa Port and the adjacent industrial zone.

The upcoming smart tugs, codenamed 'RAmora', will join SAFEEN, the organization’s maritime service arm, which maintains an expanding fleet of service vessels.

“It’s a top priority for Abu Dhabi Ports to lead the charge towards digitalizing the region’s maritime operations, and we are committed to providing a pioneering model for the sector,” His Excellency Falah Mohammad Al Ahbabi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Ports, said in a statement.

“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.”

“Robert Allan 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,” added Mike Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of Robert Allan.

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