Skip to main content



Thursday, May 6, 2021 

Voith will present the FernSAMS technology as part of a live-streamed manoeuvre simulation taking place in Rostock on May 10-11, 2021, and event which the company believes will be the largest gathering of the German maritime sector this year.

The German acronym FernSAMS (Ferngesteuerte Schlepper bei An- und Ablegemanövern großer Schiffe) refers to the remote-controlled tugs used during mooring and casting-off of large ships. The objective of this collaborative project led by Voith is to make the use of tugs safer and more efficient. To realise this project, Voith assembled a consortium of industry and technology experts: the Hamburg University of Technology, the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services, the Federal Office for Hydraulic Engineering, winch and crane manufacturer McGregor, the Marine Training Center (MTC) Hamburg and communication specialists from MediaMobil. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

The use of tugs is crucial for successful ship assistance. Especially in the competitive ports and shipping sectors, the cost of tugs operation is increasing in relevance, so Voith believes it is essential to find new ways to improve efficiency and increase competitiveness.

"Standardised, automated tugboat assistance will significantly reduce costs for shipping companies and port operators and increase the speed of individual ship manoeuvres," said Dr Dirk Jürgens, VP R&D Voith Turbo Marine and Project Manager for FernSAMS.

In the global shipping environment, every minute spared represents a considerable cost reduction. In addition, with a remotely operated tug fleet, it is possible to reduce construction and operating costs. Because most of the boats will be operated by an intelligent remote control, these tugs will not need crew facilities. Noise insulation and even the bridge could be eliminated. This reduces weight, enhances manoeuvring and reduces energy consumption. The concept opens up other design options; for example, there is no need for a deck house to accommodate towing gear.

The second objective of FernSAMS is to substantially improve crew safety. Normally, tow lines are handed over manually, requiring the tug operating at the front of the ship to navigate directly in front of the bow of the moving freighter. Harbour pilots on the bridge of the vessels, which are often well in excess of 300m long and 45m wide, coordinate these manoeuvres with the tug captains. If all critical manoeuvres and operations can be controlled from a safe distance, this minimises the risk of accidents.

The basic principle is to replace one or several tugs in a team with unmanned vessels. The remote control is carried out on board one of the boats involved. For this to function properly in real time, there needs to be a fast and reliable data connection. “The 5G mobile communications standard is a potential transmission solution. Satellite communication is also a likely option to serve as a safety backup,” said Jürgens.

Reader Comments (0)

There are currently no comments on this article. Why not be the first and leave your thoughts below.

Leave Your Comment

Please keep your comment on topic, any inappropriate comments may be removed.

Return to index