Order for Commercial Application of Uncrewed Surface Vessels and ROVs

development of uncrewed surface vessels to improve marine survey
Uncrewed Surface Vessels - courtesy of Fugro

Published Aug 5, 2020 4:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

Efforts are underway to accelerate the development and commercial use of uncrewed, remotely operated vessels in the construction and maintenance of marine assets for the oil and gas, offshore and wind sectors. According to a partnership between Fugro, a provider of geo-data surveys and inspections, and SEA-KIT, the new class of Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs) will improve safety, efficiency and reduce the impact on marine activities.

Fugro announced that it has ordered two 12m SEA-KIT X class Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs) as the next step in the partnership it formed with SEA-KIT International to develop a new range of agile and compact unscrewed surface vessels that can deploy remotely operated vehicles and autonomous underwater vehicles for marine asset inspections. The new USVs will consume up to 95 percent less fuel than traditional, crewed vessels, supporting international ambitions for net-zero global emissions in the marine industry.

The order, which is the first commercial use of the technology, is also the first of multiple orders that Fugro anticipates. The partnership is currently working on the design of SEA-KIT’s 24m Omega class USV, which they expect to build and deliver in 2021.

 “This order cements Fugro’s strategy to lead the development of remote and autonomous solutions, which is key to delivering a safer, more sustainable and more efficient approach to the construction and maintenance of marine assets,” said Ivar de Josselin de Jong, Director Remote Inspection at Fugro. “Integration of the new USVs into our global network of remote operation centers (ROCs) will allow us to provide our clients with an entirely remote-controlled inspection solution for the first time in history. In addition to applications in the oil and gas industry, we specifically foresee an important role for our new remote inspection solution in the rapidly growing offshore wind sector.”

The first of the 12m SEA-KIT X class USVs is currently under construction at SEA-KIT’s facility in Tollesbury, England, where the fit-out of the hull and the integration of the onboard systems and sensors will take place. It is expected to be delivered to Fugro in Perth, Australia, in the fourth quarter of 2020 and will feature remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) launch-and-recovery systems and station-keeping capabilities. The vessel will be used to conduct completely uncrewed ROV pipeline inspections in up to 400-meter water depth on Australia’s North West Shelf.

The second USV, which will have a similar fit-out, is scheduled for delivery to Fugro in Aberdeen, Scotland in the first quarter of 2021.

Ben Simpson, SEA-KIT CEO, commented: “This order, our first for the delivery of a vessel for commercial use, is a real milestone for the team and testament to their hard work over the past three years. Our company vision is all about providing the technology to solve future offshore challenges now and this order is a major step forward in proving the capabilities of our USVs in addressing those challenges. It also clearly demonstrates an industry shift towards uncrewed operations and the commitment of key industry players to reducing the carbon footprint of commercial offshore operations.”