Biofuel-hybrid propulsion powers Dutch company’s first USV


The Netherlands – RC Dock, a pioneering marine robotics manufacturer hailing from the Netherlands, has unveiled its groundbreaking uncrewed surface vessel (USV), poised to redefine inspection, maintenance, repair, and survey operations within the maritime realm.

The debut of RC Dock’s fully classed USV marks a pivotal moment in the maritime landscape. This 12-meter catamaran, meticulously designed for inspection, maintenance, repair (IMR), and survey tasks, is adorned with an array of cutting-edge features. This includes an in-house developed launch and recovery system, along with the capacity to accommodate inspection and work class remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). These innovations empower the vessel to undertake real-time, over-the-horizon (OTH) remote-operated underwater inspections and repair activities, significantly expanding its versatility in maritime operations.

One of the most striking attributes of this USV is its propulsion system. Powered by a unique combination of 100% biofuel and a hybrid propulsion setup, the vessel embodies green technology at its finest. This synergy translates into over 30 days of carbon-neutral operations, capable of maintaining a transit speed of 10 knots and a survey speed of 7 knots. Notably, this technology has been proven to curtail CO2 emissions by over 90% in comparison to conventional vessels.

Harsh seas and ensuring safety

The vessel’s mettle was demonstrated in the harsh conditions of the North Sea during the winter of 2022-2023. Its resilience underscored its ability to operate efficiently in adverse conditions while championing sustainability. Beyond its technological marvel, RC Dock emphasizes the significance of human oversight. A team of master mariners and qualified watchkeepers vigilantly monitor the USV from an onshore control center. The integration of autonomous functions, such as collision avoidance and AI-supported image recognition, is coupled with a steadfast commitment to 24/7 human operators, enhancing safety in intricate offshore scenarios.

Paradigm shift in maritime capability

The twin hull design of the USV, coupled with its sophisticated launch, recovery, and towing system, reinforces its adaptability, particularly for remotely operated towed vehicle (ROTV) operations. This trailblazing vessel, initially commissioned by Sovereign Global Solutions based in the Middle East, is just the beginning. Additional units are in the pipeline, with delivery slated for late 2023. Additionally, RC Dock has its sights set on a grander vision—an expansive 23-meter sister vessel is poised to grace the seas in 2024, replete with its own intelligent launch and recovery system (LARS). This larger vessel will possess the capability to manage multiple units, a testament to the relentless pursuit of innovation.

The maritime sector stands on the cusp of transformation, thanks to RC Dock’s visionary strides. This USV isn’t just a vessel; it’s a harbinger of sustainable, efficient, and technologically advanced maritime operations, ushering in a new era in the blue domain.