Bourbon joins project to build world’s first autonomous offshore vessel

Bourbon joins project to build world’s first autonomous offshore vessel
An illustration of the unmanned, fully-autonomous prototype vessel. Image credit: Hrönn Project.


French offshore services company Bourbon Offshore announced Tuesday it has signed on to a project which is aimed at building of the world’s first fully-autonomous, unmanned offshore vessel.

Bourbon entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Automated Ships Ltd to support the building of the first-of-its-kind vessel in collaboration with the project’s primary technology partner, KONGSBERG.

The project, called the Hrönn project, is seeking to build the first autonomous, fully-automated and cost-efficient prototype vessel for offshore operations. The offshore vessel, dubbed Hrönn, will be designed and built in Norway, and could enter service as the world’s first full-size unmanned ship as early as 2018.

The Hrönn could enter service as early as 2018.

For its part, Bourbon will use its expertise in building and operating a standardized fleet to provide detailed input to the development and design of the vessel, ensuring flexibility, reliability, and cost efficiency to operate safely and effectively in the demanding offshore environment.

Hrönn will be built as a light-duty, offshore utility ship servicing the offshore energy, hydrographic & scientific and offshore fish-farming industries. It would also be utilized as an ROV and AUV support ship and standby vessel, able to provide firefighting support to an offshore platform working in cooperation with manned vessels. Automated Ships Ltd has progressed the original catamaran design of Hrönn since the project launch last November, opting for a monohulled vessel of steel construction, to provide more payload capacity and greater flexibility in the diverse range of operations.

BOURBON’s entry to the Hrönn project follows the recent news that it has joined forces with KONGSBERG in a new collaboration to develop digital solutions for next generation connected and autonomous vessels. The two companies will execute joint projects to develop new ways of efficient operations in the offshore services industry, with a fast time-to-market.

KONGSBERG will contribute its technical expertise and deliver all major marine equipment necessary for the design, construction, and operation of Hrönn, including all systems for dynamic positioning and navigation, satellite and position reference, marine automation and communication. Its vessel control systems including K-Pos dynamic positioning, K-Chief automation and K-Bridge ECDIS and Radar will be replicated at an Onshore Control Centre, allowing full remote operations of Hrönn.

Hrönn’s sea trials will take place in Norway’s officially designated automated vessel test bed in the Trondheim fjord and will be conducted under the auspices of DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA). The Hrönn will ultimately be classed and flagged, respectively.

“In this era of digitalization of industrial services, we are pleased to join this forward-looking project thus demonstrating the positioning of BOURBON as a world reference in terms of operational excellence and customer experience,” said Gael Bodénès, Chief Operating Officer, BOURBON Corporation.

“BOURBON is a world leading marine services company and we are confident that alongside KONGSBERG as technology lead, they will provide a valuable contribution to the design and operation of Hrönn,” said Brett Phaneuf, CEO, Automated Ships Ltd.

“We are pleased to be collaborating with such expert partners in the development of Hrönn, a vessel that will show how digitalisation and autonomy have the potential to revolutionise the offshore services market,” said Stene Førsund, EVP Global Sales and Marketing, Kongsberg Maritime.

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