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Thursday, November 14, 2019 

Dutch company C-Job Naval Architects has produced a concept design for an Autonomous Underwater Maintenance Dredger.

The Autonomous Underwater Maintenance Dredger (AUMD) concept design is specifically created for maintenance in port environments. The C-Job team took advantage of the opportunities and out-of-the-box solutions autonomous vessels provide such as completely submerging a dredging vessel.

The design requires significantly less power compared to a conventional dredger. The AUMD is equipped with a 16MWh battery pack that provides power for up to 12 hours of maintenance dredging.

Rolph Hijdra, Autonomous Vessels Research Lead, C-Job, said: “When we developed this exciting design, we performed a comparison study with a conventional Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger. This showed that the Autonomous Underwater Maintenance Dredger requires 55% less propulsion power and by submersing the vessel we could reduce the suction head cutting the dredge pump power demand by 80%.”

The submersion of the design also increases operability as it mitigates wave motions. The AUMD can remain submerged throughout the dredging cycle, only needing to surface for repair, maintenance and charging batteries. It features the same hopper volume as a traditional dredger even though the overall length of C-Job’s design has been reduced by 20%.

“Autonomous shipping provides enormous potential for ship owners, with both technical design and economic benefits," said Hijdra. "According to our research, even with a conservative approach, we found that with the AUMD ship owners can expect nearly twice as much profit after 15 years. Though there’s a higher initial investment, operational costs are much lower which makes it an interesting option for companies to consider.”

While the R&D team focused on reduced power demand, sustainability, and operability, they considered other aspects including emergency access which can be obtained through the diver’s lock included in the design. Data communication with the vessel was envisaged via shore-based communication networks such as 4G/5G.

Tim Vlaar, Technical Director, C-Job, said: “In order for autonomous vessels like the Autonomous Underwater Maintenance Dredger to become reality more work is needed and requires all stakeholders such as class, port authorities, Autonomous Technology companies and launching customers to come together. Of course, continued development of autonomous vessel designs is also needed to fully explore the possibilities autonomous shipping presents even further.”

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