Kongsberg announced Tuesday that it will design and equip the world's first "unmanned and fully-automated vessel for offshore operations."
The new vessel, to be named the Hrönn, will be built by Norway’s Fjellstrand AS for Automated Ships Ltd., a division of UK-based subsea engineering and operations firm M Subs.
DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Authority will oversee testing and DNV will class the vessel.
Kongsberg says that the development and utilization of the new ship will be made easier thanks to new regulations permitting autonomous vessels within Norway’s Trondheim fjord. The Norwegian government is actively promoting the development of self-driving ships in hopes that it will become an area of competitive advantage for the domestic tech and maritime sectors.
In addition, Norway does not want to miss out on crafting the regulatory structure for autonomous shipping. "To the Norwegian Maritime Authority, it is important to be a central player in the development of new technology. In this way we can avoid entering important processes too late – especially considering that new technology also makes new demands on regulations and the interpretation of these," said Olav Akselsen, the NMA’s director general of shipping and navigation, in a statement last month.
Kongsberg’s Hrönn design will be a light-duty, offshore utility ship for servicing offshore E&P, research and fish-farming activities. Its intended uses could include survey, ROV and AUV launch/recovery, open-water fish farm support and cargo deliveries to offshore installations. The vessel could also be deployed as a standby safety vessel and for firefighting support to an offshore platform.
She is not yet chartered, but Automated Ships Ltd says that it is in discussions with several potential customers.
At least initially, Kongsberg anticipates that she will be run from shore with a remotely-connected version of the firm's existing bridge electronics and dynamic positioning suite.
Kongsberg joins other marine electronics and control systems suppliers in the race to develop an autonomous merchant vessel. Its design for a modestly-sized PSV contrasts with Rolls-Royce's depictions of larger vessels for coastwise shipping or trans-oceanic trade.