Port operations reach new highs

Date: Thursday, August 2nd, 2018
Source: AJOT

Drones to deliver for port authorities

Earlier this month the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) signed an agreement with Wilhelmsen Ship Services (WSS) and Airbus to develop an unmanned air system (UAS) to assist in various port and ship operations. The initial pilot program scheduled for Q-3-18 is aimed at the delivery of spare parts, documents and parcels to vessels anchored within the harbor. Andrew Tan, MPA’s Chief Executive Officer, said “MPA will provide a suitable test-bed in the Port of Singapore for both companies to test their systems at sea and enable us to develop the regulatory framework for drone deliveries. The use of such innovative technology could help improve productivity and free up manpower and resources that could be deployed for other value-added jobs.”

Airbus recently concluded an initial test of their unmanned system delivering parcels between two stations within the port. The new joint service called Agency by Air will now perform extensive tests of port to ship deliveries. The first phase will be a two-week trial involving a series of drops to ships anchored a mile and a half off the port’s eastern anchorage. Two control stations will be set up quayside with an additional location at Marina South, Marina Bay Singapore. Designed for parcel delivery in dense urban areas, the Airbus Skyways drone was initially tested in and around National University of Singapore earlier this year. It will be adapted for heavy load use in the initial offshore trials.

Wilhelmsen takes to the air

WSS has put the full weight of their development team behind UAS technology as part of their ship chandlery operation. They believe drones would significantly cut delivery time and cost allowing for more productive scheduling of services. Unmanned air ships could, one day, significantly reduce the use of crews for water borne deliveries. Wilhelmsen is currently evaluating drones for use both at sea and on inland waterways. Marius Johansen, VP of Business Solutions, acknowledged that with today’s technology, drones are capable of carrying heavy payloads. While currently confined to shore side operations, Johansen envisions drones hauling payloads of up to 1,700 lbs, supplying parts to ships at sea. Wilhelmsen operates in over 2,000 ports in 125 countries worldwide; the potential for expanding the integration of port operations and related services is immense. A drone delivery service could conceivably be 90% cheaper than using launch boats, Johansen said.

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