There have been many innovations over the past century, but the shipping industry still requires many processes to be carried out by hand. Now, a robot that can inspect the ballast water tanks onboard ships will soon be used in the shipping industry.
Developed by a team of Dutch and German companies and universities, including the University of Twente in the Netherlands, RoboShip is an autonomous robot that intelligently inspects a ship’s tanks for potential damage. The robot, which will be integrated into all future ships built in the Meyer Weft shipyard in Germany, will replace human inspectors, offering significant cost savings and improving safety. Not only will the robot help reduce potential injury, but it removes the need to dock when inspections are carried out. The robot can inspect the ship while it is out at sea, and any repairs it flags up as being needed can be booked for the next time the ship docks. The autonomous robot moves along a roller coaster-like set of rails built into the ballast tank using a camera and multiple other sensors to inspect the steel. It transmits its video and other data to a human crew outside the tank for assessment.
The device is much more efficient than human inspectors, as it can move around the tank faster than humans on specially installed rails that also supply it with power. Dian Boregerink, researcher at the University of Twente developed the Roboship robot after realizing that people actually need to go into the ballast water tanks to carry out inspection work. After a voyage the tanks are all slippery with seaweed and full of noxious gases.
In the future, the RoboShip designers would like to see the robot using a laser to perform some types of repair work on its own during the inspection.