Astilleros Gondan Cuts Steel for Unique Unmanned Offshore Vessel

Illustration courtesy Solstad

Published Mar 18, 2024 7:06 PM by The Maritime Executive


Spanish shipbuilder Astilleros Gondan has cut steel for the first unmanned offshore inspection vessel for USV A/S, a Norwegian joint venture that is among the first pioneers in this space. 

DeepOcean, Solstad Offshore and Østensjø Rederi joined forces last year to order a unique unmanned offshore vessel, which could change the way that subsea inspections are done in the North Sea. The partners believe that they will be able to perform all subsea inspection tasks and most subsea intervention work, without any onboard crew, and with 90 percent less carbon emitted. 

Their one-of-a-kind vessel is a 78-foot steel workboat with a sheltered back deck. The hull form is designed for seakeeping in "severe" weather, according to project partner Solstad. 

The boat will have a hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system with enough fuel capacity to run for up to 30 days offshore. Its payload will be a work-class ROV rated for 1,500 meters of depth, an unusual piece of equipment for a vessel of this size. ROVs are usually launched from much larger vessels, so this small USV will have a newly-developed launch and recovery system for safe handling on its fantail. 

“We will operate the vessel and the ROV from an onshore remote operations center. This is an excellent way of reducing cost, CO2 footprint and limit personnel exposure to offshore operations,” said Øyvind Mikaelsen, Chair of USV AS and CEO of DeepOcean, in announcing the order last year. 

The partners hope to have the new vessel in operation in 2025.

The unmanned inspection and survey business space has multiple competitors, including Ocean Infinity, which is entering the market with first-of-a-kind "lean-crewed" ships starting this year. These ship-sized vessels are far larger, measuring about 255 feet in length, and will operate on a minimally-manned basis - for now.