What is Semcon’s role in the development of the HullSkater?
The role of Semcon is to be a competent development partner for Jotun all the way from the early concept stage to the market entry. This involves all the design work, analysis, software development, prototype manufacturing and comprehensive test and commissioning work. We have also supported a large number of operations where the robot is remote controlled from our site here in Kongsberg, Norway
Concerning the software aspects, we have in-house developed all the control software that is required to operate the robot itself. As for the testing, in addition to checking the mechanical properties of the robot itself, we have checked the quality of the operation to see that the device can clean properly and achieve the right results – in combination with having an effective control system on the robot to make sure it can navigate and manoeuvre underwater too.
Last year we did a lot of work at the test site in Horten, followed by actually testing on board different ships. This involved the proper installation and commissioning of the system, so we have carried out extensive test work on different ships in operation around the world, together with Jotun and Kongsberg Maritime.
Why is this important for Semcon?
Semcon is looking for projects and customers where we can make a difference together with the customer. We believe this innovation will have a significant impact on ship maintenance, with a positive gain in fuel consumption and less environmental impact, which is important as ship owners and operators work to achieve fuel efficient, sustainable operations. Also, in this project we have been able to utilise all Semcon's skill sets, working in a strong cross-functional team together with Jotun and later with Kongsberg Maritime. It has been very inspiring to work with both these companies on a forward-thinking hull cleaning approach that uses robotic devices.
Any challenges during the development phase?
It is always challenging to enter into a new solution space. The fact that we are working both above and under the water line is challenging, as is working on a vertical surface and even with the robot upside down. Visibility in different harbours has also been a challenge when operating under water, but we have overcome the challenges.
Can the HullSkater help address the global biofouling issue?
We believe the HullSkater will significantly reduce the risk of transferring harmful biological fouling across the oceans and into vulnerable harbours. This advantage comes on top of reducing fuel consumption and adds to the sustainability gain of the system.
From our perspective, the HullSkater represents a new, ground-breaking approach to hull cleaning and inspection using a robotic device that is on board the vessel. The owner or operator does not have to order someone to come and clean the ship, unlike other service providers that bring their equipment to the ship and then do a cleaning job within a certain timeframe. If the owner/operator has the equipment already on board, then they can use it when it suits the vessel's schedule. So there is more flexibility and there is also the advantage of having high-definition inspection capabilities through cameras which can monitor the quality of the cleaning work.