Fugro has ordered two 12-m SEA-KIT X-class unmanned surface vessels (USVs), with one bound for their Asia-Pacific region and the other for North Sea operations
Fugro first announced it had formed a partnership with SEA-KIT to develop a range of USVs that can deploy remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) in early 2020.
As reported exclusively by OWJ in May 2020, Fugro is set to introduce a family of USVs into the offshore and offshore wind sectors in the next 12-18 months. It also said the remotely operated USVs could one day deploy above-water survey assets.
SEA-KIT’s remotely-controlled USVs are designed with an adaptable payload area for multiple mission configurations. They can work in standalone mode or as part of a fleet to complete a wide range of tasks faster, less expensively and with less risk to personnel and significantly reduced carbon emissions than traditional, crewed vessels.
Fugro director remote inspection Ivar de Josselin de Jong said, “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.
“Integration of the new USVs into our global network of remote operation centres (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.”
Essex, UK-based SEA-KIT and Fugro first announced their partnership in March 2020.
The two new USVs are the first of multiple planned builds for Fugro as part of the partnership, with the schedule also including the design, build and delivery of SEA-KIT’s 24-m Omega-class USV in 2021.
SEA-KIT chief executive Ben Simpson said, “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.”
The first of the 12-m SEA-KIT X-class USVs is expected to be delivered to Fugro in Perth, Australia, in Q4 2020 and will feature ROV and 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 m 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 in Q1 2021.
The first order is already under construction at SEA-KIT’s facility in Tollesbury, Essex, where the fit-out of the hull and the integration of the onboard systems and sensors will take place.
Fugro and SEA-KIT said they believe USVs can improve safety and efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of offshore operations.
The new USVs will consume up to 95% less fuel than conventional crewed vessels, supporting international ambitions for net zero global emissions in the marine industry.
Fugro says USVs could be customised to meet client requirements and highlighted the environmental advantages of the electrically powered ROVs they would deploy. Data collected by the USVs and the ROVs would be transmitted ashore using a several communications technologies to ensure seamless, secure, uninterrupted availability.
The company has identified a range of applications for the USVs in addition to seabed surveys including logistics, providing support to other vessels, underwater ROV operations, subsea foundation inspection, environmental monitoring and acting as a platform to support above-water inspections.
Fugro has already built up a track record of successfully operating USVs, including recent trials to demonstrate delivery of systems contributing to crewless inspections. In the demos, Fugro’s autonomous surveyor (FAS) was controlled from a ROC and successfully completed a survey of a 5-km of pipeline in water depths ranging from 5 m to 40 m. A 2.3-km section of pipeline was surveyed in 1.5 hours in a 4-m significant wave height sea state.
A remote inspection system was configured to facilitate four live video feeds from the FAS to the ROC with a presentation of live multi-beam echo sounder data.
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