Jul 18, 2023 | offshore marine news

USV, a joint venture (JV) company established by DeepOcean, Solstad Offshore and Østensjø, has contracted the Astilleros Gondán shipyard in Spain to build an unmanned surface vessel (USV), capable of significantly reducing emissions and operating expenses compared to conventional vessels utilised for subsea inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) work.

USV has been established to invest in and own USVs. It is estimated that the USV solution can reduce CO2-emissions by more than 90% compared to a conventional offshore vessel when conducting subsea IMR operations, and the vessel will be able to operate for 30 days without refuelling.

The JV concept development for the USV began in 2018, and has been conducted in close collaboration with clients, Salt Ship Design, technology providers, and the relevant authorities to enhance the capabilities of the USV. Maritime Robotics will deliver the system that enables auto-remote control and navigation for the USV. 

The USV is 24m long and 7.5m wide. A hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system, which also includes a battery package from Seam, will allow the unmanned vessel to operate offshore for up to 30 days without charging or refuelling. It will be equipped with a work ROV that is capable of operating down to 1,500m water depth.

The USV will be remotely controlled from shore – but will have many autonomous features to ensure its safety and integrity. It can operate in severe weather conditions. During operations, both the USV vessel crew and ROV operators will be co-located in the same remote operating centre.

Øyvind Mikaelsen, Chair of USV AS and CEO DeepOcean said: “With our new USV, we are moving the captain onshore who will still remain in control over the offshore operations. We will operate the vessel and the ROV from an onshore remote operations centre. This is an excellent way of reducing cost, CO2 footprint and limit personnel exposure to offshore operations.”

Håvard Framnes, Investment Director Østensjø, said: “It is fantastic that we are able to provide new technology to the market that not only reduces emissions significantly, but also reduces costs and increases safety in offshore operations. This shows that the Norwegian offshore cluster is at the forefront of the energy transition. We have good experience in doing business with Solstad Offshore and DeepOcean, and we are pleased to grow the cooperation with this new winning technology.”

To increase the USV’s workable weather window, it is equipped with a newly-developed launch and recovery system which allows for work class ROVs to be operated from relatively small vessels, such as the USV.

Mikaelsen added: “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,.”

In addition to the ROV, the USV will be equipped with a tool package to perform subsea operations. The USV will be capable of handling most of all subsea inspection work and a significant part of subsea intervention tasks.

Lars Peder Solstad, CEO Solstad Offshore said: “In practice, this concept represents a step change in offshore operations. The collective expertise between the three JV partners, and our experience from the harsh environment of the North Sea, has allowed us to design this technology solution that can operate offshore for up to 30 days.”

Astilleros Gondán has been contracted to build the USV, for scheduled delivery by the end of 2024. The plan is that the USV, following offshore testing, will be ready for operations in 2025. 

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