Fugro’s Blue Essence®, a 12 m uncrewed surface vessel (USV), has received approval from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to operate the first USV with an electrical remotely operated vehicle (eROV) in UK waters.
The MCA is the government body that regulates vessels in the UK ensuring they meet technical, safety and environmental requirements of the region. Fugro sees this as a breakthrough development as USVs play a vital role in the future of the maritime sector by improving safety, reducing carbon emissions, and delivering data more efficiently.
With previous maritime regulations based on crewed vessels, the MCA has been working in consultation with companies like Fugro to help drive innovation without compromising safety. Fugro was able to demonstrate the operational safety of its USVs to the satisfaction of the MCA as maritime regulator.
The MCA granted Blue Essence® category 2 approval, meaning the vessel can be operated within 60 nautical miles of a ‘safe haven’; the next stage in the UK regulatory process will be to obtain Category 0 MCA approval which will allow the vessel unrestricted service subject to agreement of relevant port authorities.
The vessel spent the majority of 2022 at Turnchapel Wharf where it underwent major sea trials and testing.
About the vessel
Blue Essence’s modular design means that it can be used for a wide range of industry tasks within the energy sector and others.
Larger than Blue Shadow, Blue Essence has the fuel/storage capacity to run autonomously for up to 17 days.
- 11.75m LOA
- 2.2m beam
- Electric directional thrust motors
- 4 knots survey speed
- Fully autonomous, semi-autonomous, direct remote-control options
The uncrewed vessel, developed in partnership with SEA-KIT International, is equipped with Fugro’s Blue Volta® eROV and an array of geophysical equipment to undertake subsea inspection and site characterisation surveys. Blue Essence® allows experts to deliver projects from Fugro’s onshore remote operations centres (ROCs) safely out of harm’s way while experiencing a healthier work-life balance. The USV consumes significantly less fuel than large ROV support vessels resulting in a 95% reduction in carbon emissions and enables real-time data delivery, leading to faster and more informed decision making.
Katy Ware, Director of UK Maritime Services for the MCA said: “Technology has allowed incredible innovation in the maritime sector. Our role in all of this is to make sure that we have the regulation and training regimes which allow it to develop without jeopardising safety or welfare.”
Nick Simmons, Director USV and Remote Working Europe and Africa at Fugro commented, “The opportunities this development opens for UK operations are really exciting. Fugro’s Blue Essence® fleet has already been successfully operating in Europe and Australia and recently completed a fully remote inspection off the coast of the Netherlands, in Europe’s busiest part of the North Sea, demonstrating the benefits of this innovative way of working. We are delighted that the USV can fly the UK flag and are looking forward to undertaking our first operations in the UK soon.”