NauticExpo e-Magazine - #5 - Smarter and more Secure - NauticExpo e-Magazine

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The Smart Way to Security

Are drones and ROVs your new best friends? From a security standpoint, almost certainly. With new regulations released on a regular basis and unprecedented levels of threats and environmental concerns, getting a little help from autonomous robotic workers seems to be the smartest solution.

In this 5th issue of NauticExpo e-Magazine, you’ll learn how next-gen drones can protect you, while ROVs ensure compliance and efficiency.

Talking efficiency, we chose to highlight Liebherr’s big data initiative in this issue. Big data seems to be one of the main buzz words in industry today, but few companies are taking advantage of it. Check out what this crane manufacturer has to say.

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Rostock-based German manufacturer Liebherr is one of the first maritime companies to use big data as an IT tool. With the introduction of the LiDAT smartApp and a big data platform, which optimizes the performance of its cranes at ports and terminals globally, Liebherr has made it possible to quickly analyze operating...

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We recognized that AUVs had two major shortcomings: lack of surface capability and limited maneuverability.

Underwater drones, or Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) are nothing new in subsea security. But that didn’t stop French manufacturer Thales from creating a sensation at the Euronaval trade fair with a beast of a different stripe: the Autonomous Underwater & Surface System (AUSS). This elegantly designed drone can not only carry out underwater missions—inspecting offshore oil installations, for instance—but also can operate at the surface by positioning itself vertically and deploying a mast above the water.

Courtesy of Thales

Courtesy of Thales

We interviewed Jean-François Ghignoni, Marketing Director for Underwater Systems at Thales to learn more.

NauticExpo e-Magazine: When did the project begin and how did you get the idea for this new type of drone?

Jean-François Ghignoni: The project began in 2012. Thales already had significant experience with underwater minewarfare AUVs, and we thought such unmanned systems could have other applications, including civilian ones. We recognized that they had two major shortcomings: lack of surface capability and limited maneuverability. We put on our thinking caps and asked ourselves what kinds of innovations we could put into the next generation. In the end, we came up with a dozen innovations.

NauticExpo e-Magazine: The AUSS can turn around in less than 10 meters. What gives it such great maneuverability?

Jean-François Ghignoni: Its propulsion system works without fins. I can’t go into the details of the technology due to confidentiality issues. What I can tell you is that our drone doesn’t need to be moving through the water to maneuver. It also has a dynamic buoyancy control system.

Monitoring Underwater Infrastructure

NauticExpo e-Magazine: What sets it apart is that it can operate at the surface as well as underwater.

Jean-François Ghignoni: Yes. Its ability to deploy a mast at the surface makes possible coastal surveillance without deploying visible means such as aircrafts or boats, in other words, discreetly. At the same time, the AUSS can monitor underwater infrastructure, for example for the oil industry. It differs from an ROV, which is controlled by the crew of a surface ship.

Our system was designed for maneuverability and extended mission capability. If you have recharging systems, you can do without 80% of the vessels previously required.

If you have recharging systems, you can do without 80% of the vessels previously required.

NauticExpo e-Magazine: What’s its range?

Jean-François Ghignoni: Today, it can operate for two weeks over 50 nautical miles. For example, an AUSS can extend its mast for a while, shoot a video and then stand by at depth.

A 17 Knots Speed

NauticExpo e-Magazine: The AUSS has a top speed in excess of existing underwater drones.

Courtesy of Thales

Courtesy of Thales

Jean-François Ghignoni: The prototype can reach 17 knots, and we expect to reach 20 knots. Limited speed is a drawback of existing AUVs, which top out at about 6 knots.

NauticExpo e-Magazine: How does the AUSS communicate with shoreside systems?

Jean-François Ghignoni: This is an important issue that must be discussed with our clients. It’s perfectly possible to imagine incorporating a compact satellite communications system. We’re also looking at line-of-sight radio communications solutions. Another possibility is a link to aircraft, similar to communications with sonor buoys.

NauticExpo e-Magazine: Will the AUSS have built-in intelligence?

Jean-François Ghignoni: Since 2009-10 we’ve launched AUVs with mission-specific intelligence. We spend a lot of time working on this to find an algorithm that makes the system autonomous. We think the level of autonomy will evolve, as is the case in the automobile industry.

The Benefits of Design

NauticExpo e-Magazine: When can we expect to see a completely operational AUSS?

Jean-François Ghignoni: Today’s AUSS is a prototype developed over the course of three years. Everything will depend on client requests. We expect to see the first operational system in three or four years.

NauticExpo e-Magazine: The AUSS has a particular look.

Jean-François Ghignoni: Yes. We wanted to differentiate our drone visually. We brought in a designer after two or three sea trials. He changed not only the color, but also the shape of the drone.

It really surprised us when the new configuration performed better than the initial one. There was close collaboration with the engineers. This could be the first time that external system or equipment design led to such an improvement.


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    As part of the Robert Allan ‘Rave’ development, the Canadian-based naval architects have introduced it latest offering to the market the Carousel- RAVE

    The Carousel-RAVE is a development from the Robert Allan RAVE design that utilises both a different form of towing system and a new propulsion drive arrangement. The carousel system onboard the tug is designed so the towing line cassettes is fitted around the wheelhouse allowing the towing cable to be unwound 360degs.

    Winch Innovation

    Robert Allan, executive chairman, Robert Allan Ltd, comments: “The Carousel is kind of interesting because it virtually builds a ring around the deck house, on which the winch can travel around. This way, the winch is always in line with towing force.

    The winch is always in line with towing force.

    I will never say that anything is capsize proof, but this probably as close to that as you can get.”

    The carousel concept can be applied to any size of tug.

    New Drives Arrangement

    The design features the Robert Allan and Voith Turbo developed RAVE propulsion, with drives arranged in line along the center line of the hull and located at either end of the hull.

    The company adds that this design is an ideal solution for any ship-handling operation in confined spaces. The maneuverability of the vessel also lends itself to operation in canals, locks and most river ports.

    Allan explains that the development of the RAVE propulsion design is novel: “When you have two units situated adjacent you typically get quite a lot of interference and the sideways forces are limited as a consequence of that. When you spread them apart, you get almost no interference between the two units and you get 100% thrust sideways.”

    Circular Thrust Capability

    By adding the RAVE concept to the propulsion, a tug will achieve more of a circular thrust capability, rather than an elliptical shape from a more standard propulsion set-up.

    One of the main benefits of having circular thrust is that 100% sideways thrust can be achieved, allowing the tug to have better manoeuvrability.

    We’ve worked very closely with Voith, studying this intensively both in CFD testing and model testing, and we’ve developed a number of designs for these,” Allan adds.

    The first of the Carousel RAVEs is currently under construction at Theodor Buschmann shipyard in Hamburg. The small tug is designed to produce and handle escort steering forces that are approximately 50% greater than existing tugs of a similar size.

    The first hull block was lifted and turned in mid-August as production ramps up at the German shipyard. Once completed this first tug will begin working as part of Multraship‘s fleet.


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    Initially designed for Groningen Seaports, Damen Green Solutions’ innovative InvaSave has successfully completed shipboard testing aboard containership Henrike Schepers.

    InvaSave is a containerised ‘plug & play’ unit designed for ports and able to treat ship’s ballast water. It can be placed aboard a service barge or moved around a port on a trailer or pontoon. The system uses special filtering and UV technology and does not contain chemicals or hazardous substances.

    A Port-Based Alternative

    “InvaSave is capable of providing a ballast water treatment backup in a port in the event of a failure of a vessel’s on board treatment system – and it can also serve as a mobile, port-based alternative for ship owners who may not want to retrofit an on board treatment system,” Damen Green Solutions product manager Matthijs Schuiten told NauticExpo e-magazine, adding: “It could also be deployed in a port with a sudden outbreak of marine pests.

    A single InvaSave unit can treat a maximum 300m3/h

    “As a performance indicator for the system, a single InvaSave unit can treat a maximum 300m3/h, and the system can run uninterrupted for weeks if the fuel tank is filled up every 24 hours,” Schuiten continued. “A typical ballast water treatment session takes 10 hours to empty a ship.

    Marine Pest Outbreak

    Courtesy of Damen

    Courtesy of Damen

    “In terms of a marine pest outbreak in a port there are various scenarios in using InvaSave:

    1). Where there is a marine pest outbreak in the port of ballast water intake.

    On top of ballast water exchange, or treatment of the vessel itself, the port authority could advise the vessel to take in ballast water via the InvaSave. This pre-treatment will provide an extra IMO-certified protection to prevent taking pests on board.

    2). Where a vessel is to discharge ballast water from a port with a known marine pest outbreak.

    Again, on top of ballast water exchange, or treatment of the vessel itself, the port authority could advise the vessel to discharge ballast water via the InvaSave. This after-treatment will also provide extra IMO-certified protection against discharging pests.

    3). A water body needs to be cleaned from a pest.

    “The water is pumped through the InvaSave and leaves it IMO-certified free of pests. Of course, the feasibility of this is to be determined on a case-by-case basis – what is the water volume, is the pest floating in the water or attached to hard surfaces, etc?

    Multiple Tests

    “The tests aboard Henrike Schepers saw ballast water taken aboard untreated, with the efficacy of InvaSave’s technology validated on discharge,” Schuiten noted. “The results met the D2-Standard of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) in all aspects. This also includes a test series conducted with the high-sediment waters of the UK’s River Hull and River Thames. Test protocols were in line with IMO BWMC test guidelines and additional requirements of the Dutch flag state – all testing was conducted by MEA-nl.

    The system is robust and works under all relevant circumstances, regardless of the composition of the ballast water

    “IMO type approval is expected to be obtained later this year and a patent is pending for this innovative system,” Schuiten stated, adding: “An overall and important principle is that the system is robust and works under all relevant circumstances, regardless of the composition of the ballast water. As more and more countries are ratifying BWMC, it could enter into force in 2017, but in any case, it’s only a matter of time.

    “It’s not just ships, BWMC is also relevant for all port authorities, who could face congestion problems if they don’t have a contingency/emergency service in place. Damen is co-operating with service providers in ports to provide InvaSave.”

    At Work In Netherlands

    The production prototype was displayed at Delfzijl’s ‘DelfSail’ sailing festival in late June/early July – and Groningen, responsible for the Dutch ports of Delfzijl and Eemshaven, is now the first port authority to provide an InvaSave service.

    “Our location on the Wadden Sea, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, means that we have a responsibility to push forward the progress of sustainable shipping,” said Groningen Seaports sustainability co-ordinator Bart van der Kolk. “We are fully prepared for the ratification of BWMC and this innovative solution is likely to appeal to other ports, as well as ship owners, especially those operating close to sensitive locations such as World Heritage sites and particularly sensitive sea areas.”

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    Tony Slinn

    Formerly editor-in-chief of IHS Maritime, Tony Slinn is an independent maritime journalist.

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    Samantha Fisk

    Samantha Fisk worked at RINA for 7 years and has now gone into freelance for European magazines.

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    Ludovic Nachury

    Journalist and innovation enthusiast for more than 10 years, Ludovic Nachury is VirtualExpo e-magazine’s editor-in-chief.

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