Design for autonomous maintenance dredger unveiled

The design requires significantly less power compared with a conventional dredger. Credit: C-Job

C-Job Naval Architects, an independent ship design and engineering company, has unveiled its concept design of an autonomous maintenance dredger (AUMD). The distinctive design was presented at the combined Maritime and Port Technology and Development Conference (MTEC) and International Conference on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (ICMASS) in Trondheim, Norway.

Developed by C-Job’s research and development department, the design was created specifically for maintenance in port environments. The team took advantage of the opportunities and contemporary solutions autonomous vessels provide, such as completely submerging a dredging vessel.

This unique design requires less power compared with a conventional dredger. The AUMD has a 16 MWh battery pack that provides enough power for up to 12 hours of maintenance dredging.

Rolph Hijdra, autonomous vessels research lead at 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 because it reduces wave motions as it can stay submerged throughout the dredging cycle. It only needs to surface for repair, maintenance, and charging batteries. The AUMD features the same hopper volume as the traditional dredger, although the overall length of C-Job’s design has been reduced by 20%.

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

Although the research and development team concentrated on reduced power demand, sustainability, and operability, it also considered other aspects of the design, such as emergency access, which can be obtained through the diver’s lock included in the design. Data communication with the vessel was anticipated via shore-based communication networks such as 4G/5G.

Tim Vlaar, technical director at C-Job, said, “In order for autonomous vessels 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.”