Automated Ships, Kongsberg to Build Unmanned Vessel for Offshore Ops

The UK’s Automated Ships and Norway’s Kongsberg Maritime have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to build unmanned and fully-automated vessel for offshore operations.

In January 2017, Automated Ships Ltd will contract the ‘Hrönn’, which will be designed and built in Norway in cooperation with Kongsberg.

Sea trials will take place in Norway’s Trondheim fjord and will be conducted under the auspices of DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA).

Hrönn is a light-duty, offshore utility ship servicing the offshore energy, scientific/hydrographic and offshore fish-farming industries, Kongsberg explained.

Its intended uses include but are not limited to: survey; remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) launch & recovery; light intermodal cargo delivery and delivery to offshore installations; and open-water fish farm support.

The vessel can also be utilized as a standby vessel, able to provide firefighting support to an offshore platform working in cooperation with manned vessels.

Automated Ships Ltd is currently in discussion with several end-users that will act as early-adopters and to establish a base-rate for operations and secure contracts for Hrönn offshore, the company noted.

Hrönn will initially operate and function primarily as a remotely piloted ship, in Man-in-the-Loop Control mode, but will transition to fully automated, and ultimately autonomous operations as the control algorithms are developed concurrently during remotely piloted operations.

Kongsberg will deliver all major marine equipment necessary for the design, construction and operation of Hrönn. The company will deliver all systems for dynamic positioning and navigation, satellite and position reference, marine automation and communication.

All vessel control systems including K-Pos dynamic positioning, K-Chief automation and K-Bridge ECDIS will be replicated at an Onshore Control Centre, allowing full remote operations of the Hrönn.

“The advantages of unmanned ships are manifold, but primarily centre on the safe guarding of life and reduction in the cost of production and operations; removing people from the hazardous environment of at-sea operations and re-employing them on-shore to monitor and operate robotic vessels remotely, along with the significantly decreased cost in constructing ships, will revolutionize the marine industry,” said managing director Brett A. Phaneuf of Automated Ships.

“The contract that has been announced today is a brave initiative and a major step towards the realisation of these technologies, and we look forward to moving technology frontiers together with all those involved,” said Bjørn Johan Vartdal, head of DNV GL Maritime Research.

“We are proud and excited to be part of the first project to actually realize the potential of unmanned vessels by supporting the construction of the first full size, fully operational example,” added Stene Førsund, EVP Global Sales & Marketing, Kongsberg Maritime. “The Hrönn is an incredible ship and a great example of Kongsberg’s commitment to developing autonomous and unmanned vessels.”

Hrönn is expected to be built by a Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand AS.

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