Remotely operated and unmanned vessels are able to operate in hazardous conditions making them well-placed for use in fire fighting and pollution control
Unmanned technology means craft can operate in closer proximity to dangers such as flames, heat, fumes and explosive hazards that would put human crews on board at an unacceptable level of risk.
This was demonstrated in October 2018, when a joint industry project showcased the remotely operated firefighting capabilities of tug Borkum in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands’ minister of water management Cora Van Nieuwenhuizen visited the tug and observed its remote operation extinguishing a simulated fire on a nearby jetty as part of the Innovation Expo 2018 in Rotterdam.
Stakeholders in the project include Kotug (project management), Alphatron (camera visualisation and system integration), KPN (data sim cards for 4G connectivity), M2M Blue Onboard (Data connection via combined 4G and LAN VPN tunnel), Rotortug (vessel owner) and Veth (steering and engine control systems).
Elsewhere, Kongsberg Maritime and Robert Allan are co-operating on the RALamander project, designing an uncrewed fireboat targeted at port and offshore firefighting applications. The first vessel to be developed, 20-m long RALamander 2000, will have a FiFi I capability and carry three monitors. It will have a pumping capacity of 2,400 m3/hour with optional foam and will be fitted with a retractable mast to allow a high point of attack for shipboard or dock fires. Automated functions such as dynamic positioning, water spray target holding and 'line protection', where the vessel operates back and forth on a set line while directing spray cover on structures or vessels at risk of fire, will also be incorporated. The vessel will be equipped with a grapnel emergency towing system to allow it to tow burning vessels to a safe distance to reduce risk of fire spreading.
As well as firefighting, unmanned technology can aid in monitoring and controlling pollution in ports.
To this end, an unmanned pollution control boat has been launched as a demonstration of the capabilities of 5G connectivity technology.
Developed by telecoms companies Ericsson and China Mobile with unmanned surface vehicle (USV) specialist OceanAlpha, the ESM 30 boat can be used to address water pollution issues by collecting and monitoring data on water quality, using HD cameras to identify the cause of the pollution and taking measures to address the pollution.
Commenting at the launch of the USV at the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona in February, OceanAlpha general manager Ran Zhang said “Relying on 5G communication technology, OceanAlpha’s unmanned boat can conduct water area monitoring, VR back-end demonstration, water quality monitoring, remote application control, and autopilot.
“This will completely change the traditional operation of the hydrological survey, water quality sampling and monitoring, environmental law enforcement and other water ecological environment monitoring and supervision by effectively [enhancing] data accuracy, [reducing] costs and [improving] work efficiency.”
The ESM30 measures 1.15 m x 0.75 m x 0.43 m, weighs 31 kg and is composed of fibreglass composite with Kevlar and carbon-fibre. It has an autopilot range of 5 km, a remote-control range of 2 km, and can operate at a maximum speed of 1.5 m per second for up to 3 hours. It can gather up to four 1.8-litre water samples at depths between 0.3-0.5 m.
Ultrasound sensors allow the USV to detect obstacles within a 10-m radius depending on sensor configuration. It can monitor water quality based on temperature, pH levels, conductivity and turbidity.
Yards see increased demand for FiFi1 vessels
Recent years have seen a trend across the tug construction sector for increased demand for FiFi1 type firefighting systems, compared with just FiFi half or quarter.
This is demonstrated in data from leading tug builder Sanmar Shipyards. Along with a steep increase in the yard’s construction capabilities in 2014, there has been a general trend toward FiFi1 and FiFi half equipment, displacing the stronger demand for FiFi quarter seen in previous years.
While there are some variations by class society for FiFi notations, the broad requirements for FiFi I, FiFi II and FiFi III are outlined below. This information is not exhaustive and the respective classification societies can provide further details on their own requirements.
FiFi classification guide
|Pump capacity (m3/hour)
|Monitor capacity (m3/hour)
|Throw height (m)
|Throw length (m)
*Number of monitors required for FiFi II notation varies depending on class society
** Monitor capacity depends on the number of monitors mounted
*** DNV GL rules regarding throw height and length are dependent on monitors and respective capacities
Dedicated pollution-control tug delivered
Suri took to the water on 6 October 2018 in Istanbul (credit: Bogazici)
Ocean SRL has taken delivery of Suri, a specialised anti-oil pollution tug.
Built by Turkish yard Bogazici, Suri measures 36.5 m in length by 9.2 m in breadth, with a maximum draught of 3.5 m. It has a bollard pull of 35 tonnes.
Propulsion comes in the form of a twin-screw fixed-pitch propeller and one 110-kW bow-mounted thruster. The main engine comprises two 1,007-kW units, with a speed of 10 knots.
Deck machinery comprises a single-drum towing winch with 600 m of 40 mm wire and a hook and windlass setup.
There is berthing for six people, comprising two single and two double berths, and the vessel has capacity for 120 m3 of recovered oil. It holds notations from RINA for oil recovery, supply vessel, tug, coastal area and AUT-UMS.
The vessel took to the water on 6 October 2018 at Tuzla in Istanbul.