Robotics/unmanned systems

Spanish Shipyard To Build First USV for Norwegian Cluster

Norway’s USV joint venture will launch its first unmanned offshore surface vessel in 2025 to support subsea inspection, maintenance, and repairs.

Illustration of the USV to be constructed.
Credit: USV AS

USV AS, a joint venture between DeepOcean, Solstad Offshore, and Østensjø, has contracted Spain’s Astilleros Gondán shipyard to build its first unmanned low-emissions surface vessel (USV) for subsea inspection, maintenance, and repair work (IMR).

The three partners in Norway’s offshore cluster created USV AS to invest in and own USVs that are envisioned to reduce IMR operating expenses while cutting carbon emissions by an estimated 90% or more when compared to conventional offshore vessels, the USV JV reported in a news release on 18 July.

A hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system, including a battery package from Seam, will power the 24-m-long and 7.5-m-wide for up to 30 days without charging or refueling. The vessel will be equipped with an remotely operated vehicle (ROV) designed to operate at 1500 m water depth.

Ship’s Captain and Crew To Work Safely Onshore

The USV vessel crew and ROV operators will work from a remote onshore operating center. Maritime Robotics AS, based in Trondheim, Norway, will deliver the vessel’s auto remote control and navigation system.

Moreover, the vessels’ relatively small size and newly developed launch and recovery system allows for the work-class ROV to operate across a wider range of weather conditions than conventional IMR vessels.

“Protecting the integrity of the ROV and its tooling is key to be able to deliver reliable and safe unmanned offshore operations. This is the cornerstone in developing this launch system instead of conventional moonpool or A-frame systems,” Øyvind Mikaelsen, chair of USV AS and CEO of DeepOcean, said.

In addition to the ROV, the USV will be equipped with a tool package capable of performing most subsea inspection and intervention tasks.

“With our new USV, we are moving the captain onshore who will still remain in control over the offshore operations,” Mikaelsen said, adding that operating the vessel and ROV remotely “is an excellent way of reducing cost, CO2 footprint and limit personnel exposure to offshore operations.”

DeepOcean is a global ocean services provider offering survey, engineering, project management, installation, maintenance, and recycling services for oil and gas, offshore renewables, deepsea minerals, including digitally enabled services.

The joint venture expects to take delivery of its first USV at the end of 2024, and after offshore testing, will launch operations in 2025, according to the news release.

The development of the USV began in 2018 and has involved close collaboration with clients, Salt Ship Design, technology providers, and the relevant authorities, according to the news release.

Lars Peder Solstad, CEO of Solstad Offshore which operates a global fleet of 45 high-end offshore vessels, said the USV concept “represents a step change in offshore operations” which leverages “the collective expertise between the three JV partners, and our experience from the harsh environment of the North Sea.”