Dutch marine engineering and manufacturing firm RC Dock has received the first class approval for its new remotely controlled uncrewed workboats from the international classification society, RINA.

RINA has confirmed class approval of RC Dock’s remotely controlled uncrewed workboats to operate up to 200 nautical miles from shore.

RC Dock, based in Ijmuiden, Netherlands, specialises in marine automation technologies including uncrewed surface vessels (USVs), automated USV mooring and refuelling docks, and USV launch and recovery systems.

RINA has classed the first of RC Dock’s 20 new workboats, which are able to conduct remotely controlled uncrewed operations in areas such as offshore surveying and subsea inspection, maintenance, and repair (IMR).

“Autonomous and remotely controlled uncrewed vessels are widely recognised as the future for many areas of shipping. This exciting project with RC Dock sees our first approval of this type of vessel and gives us valuable experience to support the industry as it embraces more and more automation,” says Guido Garufi, Benelux and North France business development manager at RINA.

“As part of this ground-breaking project, we worked closely with RC Dock and the marine authorities to clarify all concerns. Cybersecurity is obviously an essential area with such vessels, along with all aspects of safety that need to be considered in this new way of operating.”

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The workboats, which are less than 12m long, are designed to collect important data such as bathymetry, pollution levels, currents, seabed condition, weather, and bird migration. They can also carry out the monotonous duty of patrolling coastlines to observe illegal activities including pirating and smuggling.

Completely uncrewed, they can either be operated remotely from a fixed central command room or a mobile remote control centre that can be located anywhere in the world. The workboats, called the ‘Marine Autonomous Robotic Intervention Platform’ (MARIP), are monitored 24/7 while at sea.

“The benefits of remotely controlled uncrewed operation in these areas are clear. Automating vessels significantly increases safety and removes risk to human life,” explains Ronald J Kraft, RC Dock director and founder.

“We are excited about this new adventure and appreciate the professional support and expertise supplied by RINA to make this project a success. This is the beginning of autonomous and remotely controlled uncrewed operations for the shipping industry, an area I believe will continue to grow and expand into other areas.”