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The future of robots in the marine industry

Written by

Neil Martin

Neil Martin

There is a huge future for robotics and automation within the marine industry.

And one area which is likely to explode is marine maintenance. Ships of all sizes need constant care and attention, and this is where robots can step and improve operating efficiencies. 

Let’s take hull cleaning and maintenance for example.

Ship’s hulls and keels take a battering from the oceans and within a short term of their being in water, barnacles and all manner of water borne organisms attach themselves. Unless these are periodically cleaned off, they will slow the ship down and corrode the hull. 

To counter this, the ships require periodical cleaning and this is traditionally done by divers when a ship is in port, or with the ship having to be dry-docked and cleaned. The former method is dangerous work and the latter method is very expensive, as not only does the cleaning operation have to be paid for, but it means the vessel is out of action for days. 

It's potentially big business for the companies that can supply robots to do the job and one such company, Sea Robotics, has developed the Robotic Hull Bio-Inspired Underwater Grooming Tool. It’s known as the Hull BUG and moves along the ship’s surface, cleaning as it goes.

Sea Robotics reckons that regular cleaning with the bug will produce a 5% uplift in fuel efficiency which should mean $15 billion a year less spent on fuel and one billion tonnes les greenhouse gasses being emitted by the global fleet. 

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