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UK trio develop Europe’s first marine robotics training centre

Gordon Meadow, founder and CEO of SeaBot XR Gordon Meadow, founder and CEO of SeaBot XR

Three key players involved in the drive to autonomous ship operations have joined forces to create Europe’s first training and development centre, dedicated to supporting maritime’s digital transition.

The Royal Navy, SeaBot XR, and the United Kingdom’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC), all active members of the Solent Maritime Enterprise Zone (MEZ), signed on 19 May a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to create the National Centre for Operational Excellence in Marine Robotics based in Southampton, UK.

The MoU brings together the expertise of the three key players in MASS (Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships) operations and autonomous sub-surface operational training. Together they will create a new training entity that will interpret and deliver new standards of training using the progressive, world-renowned facilities at the NOC and other satellite facilities. 

The requirements for marine robotics training are very different to those which exist in the maritime training sector today, and the training facilities required do not currently exist within Europe or the UK. To address this gap, a competence-based curriculum is being created specifically for autonomous and remote vessel surface and sub-surface operations based on SeaBot XR’s skill’s management approach to ensure a workforce has the necessary proficiencies to operate vessels. 

The MoU will result in a combined training and testing site where companies can try out their own autonomous and remote-controlled vessels as well as tap into pioneering in-person training designed for military and civil marine operations.

Customers will have access to a remote operations centre and various surface and sub-surface vessels to experiment with different weather and tidal conditions, vessel features and operational practicalities.

“This initiative is testament to the Solent MEZ’s enterprise approach.  It connects ideas, people and organisations, it generates collaborations around a shared vision and then delivers.  This new centre of excellence is a case in point and marks a pivotal change in maritime as the RN constantly seeks ways to optimise technology to support RN operations and to prepare our people with the skills required to operate new technologies, surface and sub-surface autonomous vessels being a priority.  Addressing the future skills requirements in this field is a game-changer and is essential for success,” said Commodore Andrew Cree, deputy director future training of the Royal Navy.

Gordon Meadow, founder and CEO of SeaBot XR said: “We are delighted to be working with the Royal Navy and NOC to provide a future-proofed approach to maritime training. Current training available for seafarers of crewed vessels has served the industry well for decades, but many of the training methods and much of the curriculum cannot be applied to autonomous and remote vessel operations. Digitalisation is the next frontier in shipping and so requires a fresh approach to workforce training. It is vital that training is developed alongside the technology so that it serves humans to their advantage.”

Huw Gullick, managing director of Innovations and associate director, strategic business at NOC commented: “The National Oceanography Centres research in autonomous vehicles is supported by the world-class testing equipment available on our sites. Through this MoU we hope to provide companies with the opportunity to train their workforce in above and sub-surface remote operations, and benefit from the expertise brought together through the MoU.”

The centre of excellence will be based at the NOC’s two UK testing facilities in Southampton, England and Loch Ness, Scotland, and will be officially launched at the MATS (Marine Autonomy and Technology Showcase) exhibition, Southampton, in November 2021.

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