UK/Norway venture to build first unmanned offshore vessel

Light-duty offshore utility vessel 'Hrönn', the world's first unmanned offshore vessel, will be built and designed in Norway Light-duty offshore utility vessel 'Hrönn', the world's first unmanned offshore vessel, will be built and designed in Norway

UPDATED. UK company Automated Ships and Kongsberg Maritime have signed an MoU to build what the companies say will be the first unmanned and fully automated vessel for offshore operations.

The Hrönn will be built in Norway by Fjellstrand – the yard that built Ampere, the first battery powered car ferry – with Kongsberg delivering all major equipment, including systems for dynamic positioning and navigation, satellite and position reference, marine automation and communication. Automated Ships, a subsidiary of M Subs, will be the ship owner as well as project manager and primary integrator.

The vessel will be a light-duty, offshore utility ship servicing the offshore energy, scientific, hydrographic and offshore fish-farming industries. Its intended uses include survey, ROV and AUV launch and recovery, light intermodal cargo delivery and open-water fish farm support. It can also be used as a standby vessel, capable of providing firefighting support to an offshore platform in cooperation with manned vessels.

Brett Phaneuf, managing director, Automated Ships told The Motorship that the vessel is the first in a planned series that will increase in size, capability and complexity very quickly. Hrönn is expected to be around 35m in length and 10m abeam, with initial plans projecting that four thruster units will be employed under a diesel-electric configuration. She will be designed to operate at speeds of up to 14 knots.

Automated Ships will contract for the vessel in January. Sea trials will be carried out in the recently designated autonomous vessel test area in Trondheim fjord under the auspices of DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Authority, under whom the vessel will be classed and flagged respectively.

Automated Ships said it is in discussion with several potential end users.

Phaneuf said: “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 revolutionise the marine industry.”

Hrönn will initially operate as a remotely piloted ship, but will transition to fully automated and eventually autonomous operations as the control algorithms are developed.

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