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Towage services provider KOTUG has applied for a patent to use drone technology in its tug operations in an effort to achieve “safer and more efficient working conditions”.

“This … invention – using a drone to connect the towline to an assisted vessel – will drastically improve the safety margin of tug operations as this will avoid the need for maneuvering in the so-called danger zone,” KOTUG explained.

KOTUG claims it is the first tugboat company that uses this technology – to deliver a messenger line to a predetermined location with object recognition software.
Instead of picking up the heaving line of the assisted ship, the messenger line of the tug will be brought to the assisted ship in a more controlled manner. This will allow the tug to safely sail beside the assisted ship instead of in front of the assisted ship, according to the company.

Tugboat and crew position themselves in front of and close to the assisted vessel in order to grab the heaving line by hand. By doing so, the tug and crew position themselves in the danger zone, close and even under the bow of a vessel. A minor flaw in the operation can result in major injuries to the deck crew and/or damage to the tug and the assisted vessel, KOTUG said.

A series of tests is scheduled to be performed by KOTUG for full operational use of the new technology for which standard operating procedures will be developed in conjunction with relevant authorities and stakeholders.