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MoU signed to build commercial unmanned ship Featured

Artist’s impression of the 'Hrönn' Artist’s impression of the 'Hrönn'

The UK's Automated Ships Ltd (an M Subs Ltd subsidiary) and Norway's Kongsberg Maritime have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build the world's first unmanned and fully-automated vessel for offshore operations.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}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 newly designated automated vessel test bed in the Trondheim fjord and will be conducted under the auspices of DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), by whom the Hrönn will ultimately be respectively classed and flagged.

Currently, only small unmanned boats are being utilised for near shore operations but there are no technical limitations to constructing large, unmanned and automated systems, the companies said.

The current main impediments are regulatory, but with the participation of DNV GL and the NMA, and other Norwegian and UK companies and institutions, the partners believe it will be possible to rapidly and at low-cost be the first to market with a full-size unmanned ship.

Hrönn is a light-duty, offshore utility ship servicing the offshore energy, scientific/hydrographic and offshore fish-farming industries. Its intended uses include tasks like surveys, light intermodal cargo delivery and delivery to offshore installations.

Automated Ships says it is currently in discussion with several end-users that will act as early-adopters and will help to establish a base-rate for operations for Hrönn in the near future.

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 shipowner.

Kongsberg’s role in the project is to deliver all major marine equipment necessary for the design, construction and operation of Hrönn, including systems for dynamic positioning and navigation, satellite and position reference, marine automation and communication.

All vessel control systems including dynamic positioning, automation and the ECDIS will be replicated at an Onshore Control Centre, allowing full remote operation of the Hrönn.

“The advantages of unmanned ships are manifold, but primarily centre on the safeguarding 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,” said Brett Phaneuf, managing director of Automated Ships Ltd.

Hrönn is expected to be built by Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand AS, which also built the world's first battery driven car ferry, Ampere.{/mprestriction}

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