Bourbon has taken another key step in the development of autonomous vessels as the lead owner in a new project. The France-based operator of offshore support vessels has signed an agreement with Automated Ships Ltd and Kongsberg to collaborate in the Hrönn project.
Together these companies will design and build the world’s first autonomous, fully-automated and cost-efficient prototype vessel for offshore operations. Bourbon will use its experience in offshore vessel operations to match the design with client requirements and the demanding offshore environment.
Bourbon will then assist Automated Ships in finding subsidies to finance the construction of the prototype. Hrönn has been designed to be a light duty, offshore utility vessel that could service the offshore energy, hydrographic and scientific and offshore fish-farming industries.
In the offshore sector, it could be used for supporting remotely operated or autonomous underwater vehicles, or as a standby and fire-fighting support vessel around offshore platforms. In the latter role, it would need to work with manned vessels.
Automated Ships said it has changed the Hrönn concept from the original catamaran design to a monohulled vessel of steel construction to provide more payload capacity and greater flexibility in the diverse range of operations.
Kongsberg is already involved in the project after contributing systems for dynamic positioning and navigation, satellite and position reference, marine automation and communications. It will also provide systems for an onshore control centre.
All three companies plan to conduct sea trials with a prototype of Hrönn during an automated vessel test bed in the Trondheim fjord under the supervision of class society DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Authority.
In April, Marine Electronics & Communications and Offshore Support Journal forecast that autonomous vessels will be under trial within the next two years.
The agreement with Automated Ships comes after Bourbon and Kongsberg signed an agreement in June this year to jointly develop autonomous vessel technology. This was detailed in the latest issue of Marine Electronics & Communications.