Jan De Nul Group has placed an order for a hybrid unmanned surface vehicle (USV) from the Norwegian Maritime Robotics as the first step towards unmanned and autonomous offshore survey operations.

Jan De Nul
USV Belgua 01. Courtesy of Jan De Nul

By ordering the Mariner class USV, Jan De Nul is to become the first dredging contractor to deploy a USV in marine and offshore conditions.

According to the company, the vessel named Beluga 01, after the Beluga whale, will sail under the Luxembourg flag and be deployed for worldwide hydrographical and environmental surveys on marine and offshore construction projects.

Based on the Mariner class, the Beluga 01 USV is said to be a user-friendly, cost-effective and low-risk platform for data acquisition at sea as an alternative or adjunct to larger manned vessels.

It features a fully redundant hybrid propulsion system with a diesel engine mechanically coupled to the water jet as the prime source of propulsion.

Alternatively, the vessel can be operated in full electrical mode thanks to the additional electrical Torqeedo propulsion, installed parallel to the main propulsion.

As explained, there is also a range extender module to top up the batteries which will operate longer than 12 hours. This system has lower emissions than the main engine, which could also be used as an alternator for the batteries.

Furthermore, the electrical propulsion acts as redundancy for the main engine in case of a failure, or vice versa.

With these features, the Beluga 01 fits into Jan De Nul’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions as zero-emission propulsion on future vessels is part of the Group’s strategy.

“By choosing unmanned surveys and by opting for the Mariner class USV, Jan De Nul fully commits to improved safety and operational control during its survey activities, reduced carbon emissions, and more efficient data acquisition”, the company noted.

Commenting on the order, Eirik Hovstein, COO of Maritime Robotics, said: “We look forward to collaborating with Jan De Nul on the further development of the Beluga 01. Together, we will explore the future of unmanned solutions to ensure safer, greener and more cost-effective data acquisitions at sea.”

“For several years, we have been studying different autonomous systems. Our primary focus has always been to build up our expertise on autonomy for maritime survey operations”, added Mike Lycke, Survey Manager Offshore Projects at Jan De Nul Group.

“The global circumstances in 2020 and a maturing USV market enabled us to take it to the next step and order a turnkey vessel for our marine and offshore projects. We found the perfect partner in Maritime Robotics, a leading provider of innovative unmanned solutions for maritime operations and data acquisition.”

In the company-related news, Jan De Nul recently launched Les Alizés, a next-generation floating offshore installation vessel for offshore renewables and decommissioning and revealed the biggest cable installation contract in its history.

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