Thursday, May 9, 2019

First Fully Autonomous Crossing of North Sea by Cargo Carrying Vessel

Future of Short Sea Freight as 22 Hour Voyage Proves Concept
Shipping News Feature
UK – BELGIUM – The payload of the fully autonomous SEA-KIT may be two and a half tonnes, but only a fraction of that was utilised in a 22 hour voyage which the 12 metre long un-crewed surface vessel (USV)made between West Mersea in Essex and the Belgian port of Oostende earlier this week.

The craft, built in Essex carried just a single box of locally collected oysters weighing in at around 5 kilos, and the trip represents the first commercial crossing of the North Sea by an autonomous vessel. SEA-KIT arrived to be welcomed by Belgian customs officers, who took delivery of the seafood after a voyage designed to showcase the craft’s crewless navigation capabilities through GPS and satellite communication, including marine traffic avoidance in what is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

With the successful completion of the crossing, SEA-KIT’s voyage demonstrates an effective model for international communication and cooperation in the field of autonomous shipping. The Global Situational Awareness via Internet (G-SAVI) communications and control system allows an operator to remotely access CCTV footage, thermal imaging and radar through the craft, as well as listen live to the vessel’s surroundings and communicate with others in the vicinity.

The SEA-KIT vessel, also christened USV Maxlimer is operated by SEA-KIT International Ltd, and is designed and developed by Hushcraft Ltd, based in Tollesbury, Essex. SEA-KIT’s unique modular design means that it can be easily and cost effectively configured to a wide range of maritime tasks for various sectors. The vessel can be transported in a single 40ft container, drastically reducing the mobilisation costs, and being truly crewless means the vessel can conduct its missions without placing any human personnel in harm’s way and at significantly reduced cost.

The makers state the craft has a range of over 10,000 nautical miles. This long range, combined with its endurance capabilities, means that extended missions could be undertaken in a solo capacity or as part of a larger group of crewed or un-crewed vessels, opening up sectors and applications that have not been possible until now. Ben Simpson of SEA-KIT International Ltd commented:

SEA-KIT is a fundamentally versatile model. Its potential lies in its ability to be adapted to a range of tasks, whether it be transit, hydrographic surveys, environmental missions, or marine safety and security. We’re tremendously excited to push the technology to its limits and see what we can achieve.”