The vessel, a new ship of around 500 tonnes, will be procured through a £9m contract and will support trials for “autonomy development”.

The contract specifications describe a steel vessel with a draught of 3.5m, top speed of 20 knots, a range of 2500 nautical miles, a crew of 6 and with the ability to tow small boats such as RHIBs.

In addition, the vessel is expected to have a crane and a working deck able to accommodate 2×40 foot ISO containers or 2x 20-foot ISO containers.

While the vessel will also be expected to be autonomous in future, the contract specification makes clear that the functional integration of technology provided to enable the autonomous behaviours of the platform are excluded from this current contract but that the contractor should support the physical integration of this equipment in future.

The statement of requirements are relatively vague but do state that NavyX (that’s the part of the Royal Navy that typically deals with experimental projects like this) require a small ‘Fast Crew Vessel’ style ship to serve as a testbed and trials ship for the Royal Navy.

The vessel is expected to be transferred to the Royal Navy by the 31st of March 2022.

What’s the list of specs?

The vessel should not have had any previous owners other than the vessel’s builder (or other owner while vessel is in build only). The vessel should already exist and be suitable for ownership to transfer in the timelines given below.
Vessel length less than 48m LOA
A speed of 20 knots be achievable in light displacement
A fuel range of 2500 nautical miles at most efficient speed should be achievable
Vessel to have a gross tonnage of less than 500 GT.
The vessel should have a maximum draft of 3.5m.
The vessel can berth and unberth unaided from its nominated berth.
The vessel should be capable of towing small vessels (such as 12m RHIB).
The vessel’s primary machinery (prime movers, gearboxes, rudders etc) will where possible be controlled using digital interfaces.
The vessel will have a digital autopilot system.
Primary hull structure should be steel. Other materials can be used elsewhere in the vessel (for example superstructure).
The vessel be able to provide electrical power to the aft deck.
The vessel be able to be modified to provide fresh water to the deck.
The vessel be able to be fitted with a crane suitable of lifting 3.5 tonnes at 4.5m of distance.
The working deck be at least 120m2.
The working deck be able to accommodate 2×40 foot ISO containers or 2x 20-foot ISO containers.
The vessel is to have an open stern of suitable strength for the deployment of vessel appropriate equipment over the stern.
The working deck shall have a load carrying capacity of at least 2 tonne/m2.

What is a ‘Fast Crew Vessel’ anyway?

Traditionally, crew boats are used in the offshore Oil and Gas industry, primarily for the transfer of passengers and equipment from shore to the offshore worksite, as well as within the inter offshore worksites and at-sea transfers. So, they do appear to be decent platforms able to support at-sea autonomy trials.

An example I’ve used to illustrate the type of vessel above is somewhat of a close match to the requirements, it’s a ‘Fast Crew Boat’ from Strategic Marine. You can read more about it here to give you a taste of what the finished product could look like.

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Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 month ago

All this has to be achieved in 4 months with it not effectively having been second hand … I must be missing something unless a vessel or two has already been eyeballed and this is covering the legal aspects of acquisition surely.

Ian M.
Ian M.
1 month ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Hi Mr Spyinthesky,
Almost certainly, this specification matches a vessel that the MOD know is available, within timescale and cost.

James Fennell
James Fennell
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian M.

Agreed – they have found a vessel in build which is up for sale.

Goldilocks
Goldilocks
1 month ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

I think the big Serco ships like SD Victoria/SD Northern River seeing as they already support the RN as trials platforms?

Tim Hirst
Tim Hirst
1 month ago
Reply to  Goldilocks

The SD Northern River is seven times the max weight specified.
So no they won’t be anything like the same class as these two.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
1 month ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Sounds exactly as you suggest i.e. Here’s one we made earlier.

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
1 month ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Off the shelf Pleasure Cruiser or small Yacht design (which would have deck space for ancillary craft) built without the bells and whistles.

Should be reasonable number of bidders who can repurpose one already under construction or take advantage of a gap in orders.

Tim Hirst
Tim Hirst
1 month ago
Reply to  Watcherzero

Unless a builder already has a ship in construction without a buyer there is no way a new ship can be handed over by in less than 4 months. This will be a secondhand purchase.

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim Hirst

The contract specification specifically excludes secondhand.
Offshore Support Vessels of this class are built speculatively by yards and then sold through ship brokers.

Tim Hirst
Tim Hirst
1 month ago
Reply to  Watcherzero

That sounds much more likely than something from “Pleasure Cruiser or small Yacht design”.

Andy Poulton
Andy Poulton
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim Hirst

Well, maybe but I don’t know of any pleasure craft that could cope with 2 x 40ft standard containers

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub
11 days ago
Reply to  Tim Hirst

Sounds more like they have their eyes on a specific vessel and the contract offer is just worded in such a way as to avoid legal objections from other suppliers.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago

Crew of 6 , their going too have their work cut out , the Navy must already have their eyes on redundant Oil or Gas Vessels if required by March 2022 ?

Joe16
Joe16
1 month ago

Sounds like an interesting development, although not sure if this would fit with the MCM development stuff though- can’t quite work out the benefit of the larger hull. Unmanned ASW maybe? In the longer term, 500 Te weight class unmanned vessels would make for a pretty cool littoral capability.
In my previous job I’ve been on a number of these kinds of vessels, although they’re not used in the UK sector for Oil & Gas, only the offshore windfarms. They’re pretty comfy and pleasant, all things considered- if the right boxes on the options list are ticked!

Tim Hirst
Tim Hirst
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe16

This will end up as a pure trials ship. At some stage the RN needs to look at scaling up from autonomous Ribs to bigger craft. Things like autonomous docking will need to be worked though.

Joe16
Joe16
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim Hirst

Agreed, it won’t be operational- just a test bed and support for other test beds.

DougDevonshire
DougDevonshire
1 month ago

This sounds like they might already be looking at a Damen Vessel. Damen tend to keep “new builds” in stock as well which is quite useful.

dave12
dave12
1 month ago

A replacement for Diligence should be more of a priority.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  dave12

Well said Forward repair ship required ,not a tug

Tim Hirst
Tim Hirst
1 month ago
Reply to  dave12

This isn’t an operational vessel it’s a tool to help develop technology.

dave12
dave12
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim Hirst

Maybe but still with the limited budget this gov seems to be determined give our armed forces you would of thought after that F35 going down a ship with the capabilities to recover it would be a priority rather than asking for US help.

Callum
Callum
1 month ago
Reply to  dave12

I’d argue it’s exactly the opposite. The US is obviously going to help whenever it’s joint tech like the F-35 at stake, and there’s a reasonable chance they’ll do that for in other scenarios.

Meanwhile, gaining experience with autonomous platforms requires owning and operating autonomous platforms. Getting a foot in early on is a major priority

Tim Hirst
Tim Hirst
1 month ago
Reply to  Callum

Absolutely, with the help of allies the F35 has been recovered. Not all medium sized navies need to have the niche capabilities

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  dave12

MoD sold Hms Challenger toò expensive a lot of Sat divers now working world wide thanks to her

Ryan Brewis
Ryan Brewis
1 month ago
Reply to  dave12

Do any other navies have forward repair ships? AFAICT they don’t. And isn’t this exactly why Juffair is being reestablished?

Patrick
Patrick
1 month ago

500 tonnes is quite small. The batch one OPVs are 1700 tonnes.

The Big Man
The Big Man
1 month ago
Reply to  Patrick

True, but they are 79.5m LOA whereas this must be less than 48m.

George Parker
George Parker
1 month ago

Do you think this could be for testing the containerised weapon systems people are developing?

Mike O
Mike O
1 month ago
Reply to  George Parker

If the RN push on with the PODS concept then vessels like this will be useful for testing most containerised systems. Not just weapons. A 9m contract sounds like money well spent.

George Parker
George Parker
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike O

Either that or the Admirals want to do some serious extended stay, rod and line wreck fishing. RHIP you know. The giveaway will be the inclusion or not of rod locker, fish finder and fish well.

James Fennell
James Fennell
1 month ago

This is to support the new autonomous MCMVs during the development of concepts. Radakin mentioned it in his evidence to the Defence Committee recently.

Last edited 1 month ago by James Fennell
Watcherzero
Watcherzero
1 month ago
Reply to  James Fennell

I think its also about scaling the technology up from RHIB’s to larger craft, some of their concepts would involve an unmanned vessel of around this size working autonomously supporting drones and smaller unmanned craft, e.g. deploying drones to hunt for mines then self destruct to destroy them.

Last edited 1 month ago by Watcherzero
Coll
Coll
1 month ago

Looks like the Royal Navy wants its own ghost fleet like what the Americans are implementing into their fleet. Also, looks like a ferry you would get over to the IOW.

Last edited 1 month ago by Coll
Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
1 month ago

There must be some boat nearly ready somewhere. The goal for a new ship that isn’t owned with all the spec they ask for in a few months at a certain price surely is difficult unless one is ready?
Do shipyards build ships before they have a buyer?

Jay
Jay
1 month ago

With all that autonomy, hope it’s been cyber hardened, I remember hackers took control of a Jeep Cherokee in the USA, they didn’t do any harm, but proved that such systems are now able to be completely remotely operated.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
1 month ago

Medium or large POD carrying vessel for stand off antiship/ land attack missiles aka USN MUSV/ LSUV

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

The image above seems to suggest five 0.5 guns on this vessel which is a bit over the top. What’s the need for three in the front when one should suffice or a 20-30mm RWS? No protection for any of the gunners either.

Tim Hirst
Tim Hirst
1 month ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

It’s just a quick and dirty graphic to illustrate a story, not a true representation of anything.

eclipse
eclipse
1 month ago

We need a larger fleet of these. 10 at £15-20m with a proper weapons fit, fully autonomous capability, and RN systems and radars would be affordable and boost our patrol capability, especially around our borders. Spot something, use cameras then call in a River or whatever is deemed appropriate.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
1 month ago
Reply to  eclipse

This looks like it could be good with Sea Brimstone and a 40/57/30mm RWS and a UAV.
D

Alan Murphy
Alan Murphy
1 month ago

Crew transfer vessels (CTVs) are being built on a continuous basis to access offshore wind turbines and the RNX spec acknowledges their generic similarities.

Buying a CTV already in production is quite possible.

Journalist is incorrect when referring to the off shore oil & gas industry; we shy away from small vessels, in favour of walk-to-work vessels and helicopters.

Last edited 1 month ago by Alan Murphy