Automated Ships Ltd in the UK, a subsidiary of M Subs Ltd, and Norway’s Kongsberg Maritime have signed a memorandum of understanding to build what they describe as the world’s first unmanned, fully-automated vessel for offshore operations.
The vessel, Hrönn, will be designed and built in Norway in co-operation with Kongsberg. Sea trials will take place in Norway’s newly designated automated vessel testbed in the Trondheim fjord and will be conducted under the auspices of class society DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Authority.
The companies describe Hrönn as a ‘light-duty, offshore utility ship’ servicing the offshore energy, scientific/hydrographic and offshore fish farming industries. Its intended uses include but are not limited to: survey, deploying remotely operated vehicles and autonomous underwater vehicles, launch and recovery, cargo delivery to offshore installations and open water fish farm support. The vessel could also be utilised as a standby vessel, and provide firefighting support to an offshore platform working in co-operation with manned vessels.
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.
Automated Ships Ltd will be the primary integrator, project manager and owner of the vessel. The company says the project “will leverage existing technology to develop a robust, flexible and low-cost ship… and offer a capable workboat and provide an R&D asset for the emerging unmanned vessel industry sector.” Kongsberg’s role in the project is to deliver all major marine equipment necessary for the design, construction and operation of Hrönn.
Hrönn is expected to be built by Fjellstrand AS, a Norwegian shipyard with a long history of building fast ferries in addition to a number of steel offshore vessels and aluminium workboats.