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  Drones, crawlers and cleaners vie for afloat repairs


Afloat repair and maintenance initiatives highlighted.

Although there are established players in the market, such as Hydrex and the hull and propeller cleaning and polishing concerns, others have come up with ideas aimed at cutting costs.

For example, Norwegian technology company - Blueye Pioneer- has developed a low-cost underwater drone to allow shipowners, shipboard crew and shipyards to perform hull inspections without the need for divers or expensive ROVs.

The Blueye Pioneer underwater drone was developed by Trondheim-based Blueye Robotics, a company which was born out of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Centre for Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems (NTNU AMOS).

  Outside of drydocking periods, inspections below the waterline are normally carried out by divers or ROVs. While using divers is inefficient and represents significant HSE risks, ROVs have traditionally been very costly and required extensive training – and in most cases an external operator – to manage.

“We are providing vessels crews with an industrial drone that can be operated by anyone capable of using a smartphone or a tablet PC. Perhaps just as important is that it is priced reasonably at approximately $4-5,000 per drone system. This will allow for several drones on board to make inspections even quicker, which in turn means higher operational reliability and uptime for the vessel,” said Erik Dyrkoren, Blueye Robotics CEO.

Vessel hulls regularly require both ad-hoc and periodic inspections during transit and when entering ports. For example to check the vessel´s structural integrity, inlets and discharge valves, rudder, propeller, coating levels and possible corrosion. Eyes under the waterline are also required to check the hull for explosives and smuggling of contraband.

Blueye Pioneer’s underwater drone was developed by subsea experts experienced in harsh Norwegian offshore conditions. It is designed to satisfy industrial reliability requirements for underwater operations, but with a user-friendliness normally associated with consumer technology products, the company claimed.

The drone is equipped with powerful thrusters that allows it to operate in heavy currents and dive to 150 m water depth. Live video is transmitted via a thin umbilical cable to the surface and thereafter wirelessly to the user, who may either be located on board a vessel or ashore.

It is compact (45 cm x 25 cm x 35 cm) and weighs only seven kilos.

“By providing vessel owners and their crew with easy and cost-efficient access to what is below the waterline, we also give them the opportunity to address potential hull issues before they become a problem. Combined with lower than usual capex, we believe this drone can make hull inspections more frequent and less problematic,” Dyrkoren added.

Remaining in Norway, a diverse new inspection vehicle was launched at Nor-Shipping 2017.

The patented Canadian Deep Trekker DT640 utility crawler is the first three-wheeled vehicle of its kind, the company claimed.

Equipped with an HD camera, magnetic wheels and a multitude of application specific add-ons; the utility crawler can perform an array of tasks, making it incredibly versatile and easy to deploy at a moment’s notice

Designed by Deep Trekker, the crawler is submersible to 50 m and houses its own on board batteries, making deployment easy and quick for tasks, such as contraband inspections and testing hull integrity or thickness.

Magnetic wheels and various add-ons permit diverse applications, such as scraping away marine growth or power washing the hull or examining for invasive species while in port.

Hull Inspection: With magnetic wheels, the DT640 Utility MagCrawler can crawl along vertical angles to inspect the integrity of ship’s hulls even underwater. Instead of drydocking or returning to shore, crew can immediately inspect the hull if they fear something is wrong, via the live video on the handheld controller.

Hull Security Check: When entering ports, authorities or crew can quickly check areas of interest for contraband, invasive species or security threats.

Remote Pressure Washing: Outfit the crawler with a pressure washer to remove dirt, debris, rust scale and more all from piloting with the hand held controller.

Removing Marine Growth: The dozer attachment is designed to remove hard marine growth by scraping surfaces with 50 lbs of force.

Thickness Testing: The MagCrawler can determine the thickness of metal on corroded and coated structure by mounting a thickness gauge probe on its arm. The magnets give the crawler the ability to travel in almost any direction on ferrous metal surfaces.

“Deep Trekker continues to innovate to provide the easiest to use and most portable inspection technologies, without compromising durability or capabilities,” said Sam Macdonald, Deep Trekker President. “The new DT640 Utility Crawler product line has been developed by listening to the needs of the industry and our customers.”

Deep Trekker was founded in 2010 to create portable, affordable, and easy to use underwater inspection tools. The company is based in Ontario, Canada, with engineering and manufacturing undertaken in house.

Based on a clean sheet design, the first product, the DTG2 ROV was introduced in limited run in August, 2011. Following its success, the company launched the DTX2 ROV in 2015. In 2016, the company expanded the municipalities market by launching a submersible pipe crawler system, based on the same principles of the ROV systems.

Meanwhile, Fleet Cleaner recently introduced its ship hull cleaning service in every Dutch port.

The extended availability was tested with the hull cleaning of the ‘Chiquita België’ ‘in Vlissingen.

The vessel was cleaned during loading and unloading at the terminal, so that the shipping company experienced no downtime from the hull cleaning activities. This saves significant time compared to alternative cleaning methods with divers, where the ship has to be anchored outside ports, thus resulting in extra costs, the company claimed.

Added to the extended availability of the service, Fleet Cleaner also co-operates with various sub-contractors to offer other hull maintenance services. The hull cleaning services can now be combined with propeller polishing, which reduces fuel consumption, as well as class certified under water inspection by divers in order to extend drydocking.

This enables the Fleet Cleaner installation to clean any ship, in any Dutch port, during any cargo handling operation, the company said.

 

 

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