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.