Ocean Infinity's Robotic Survey Ships Set Sail From Vard Vung Tau
After a pandemic-induced delay, Ocean Infinity's first two robotic survey ships have set sail at last from the Vung Tau shipyard in Vietnam. The vessels are making a crewed voyage to Vard Søviknes in Norway for fitting out and testing, and will provide the first proof of concept for Ocean Infinity's radical rethink of subsea survey and maintenance work.
Ocean Infinity has its roots in AUV sonar surveys, and it long considered itself a "seabed intelligence company." In 2020, it announced tht it would broaden its focus to "marine robotics," including autonomous vessel operations, and it launched a plan to build more than a dozen unmanned offshore vessels to support AUV and ROV operations. Vard Vung Tao won the contract for the first eight ships, each 78 meters long. The vessels are proportioned like an OSV, with an unorthodox squared-off plate located in place of the bow's flare. Two moonpools in the back deck will accomodate robotic deployment systems for subsea equipment.
Ocean Infinity hopes to achieve lower emissions, lower cost and higher safety by de-crewing its vessel operations. Each ship will be controlled by a monitoring center on shore, and though a skeleton crew will remain on board for an interim period, the company hopes to operate fully uncrewed offshore survey vessels in the near future. Without crew, there will be a lower carbon footprint: no hotel load, no plane flights to transport personnel, and reduced vessel displacement, since accommodations are unnecessary.
"Once we get the chance to do the first job with [an offshore customer] it will be very hard for them to go back to the old way," says Ocean Infinity CTO Daniel Hook. "When we look back, [we'll see] we did it with less CO2, less HSE exposure, less fuel burned, and as good or better data - it's going to be really hard for them to go back to conventional ways of doing things."
Testing is already under way for the remote survey systems that the Armada fleet will carry. Ocean Infinity's robotic gear for hydrographic and geophysical measurement has been mounted aboard a manned vessel for trials in Sweden.
In addition to its first eight 78-meter unmanned survey ships, Ocean Infinity has ordered a series of six 85-meter vessels from Vard. When these are completed, it will have the largest unmanned fleet in the world.