Dutch tugboat company Kotug is looking to use drone technology in its tug operations. The company says that deploying a drone to connect the towline to an assisted vessel will markedly improve the safety margin of tug operations by avoiding the need for maneuvering in the so-called danger zone.
Tugboat and crew are traditionally positioned in front of and close to the assisted vessel in order to grab the heaving line by hand. This operation brings personnel and equipment into the danger zone, close and even under the (flared) bow of a vessel, where even a minor mistake can result in major injuries to the deck crew or damage to the tug and the assisted vessel.
Kotug is the first tugboat company to use drones 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, allowing the tug to safely sail beside, instead of in front of, the assisted ship.
A series of tests is scheduled to be performed and standard operating procedures will be developed in conjunction with relevant authorities and stakeholders.