Peel Ports acquires autonomous unmanned survey vessel 

FITZROY, a one-tonne vessel equipped with multibeam sonar equipment capable of hi resolution seafloor mapping down to 100 metres, was tested at Crosby Marine Lake. Tony McDonough reports

Peel Ports has acquired FITZROY, an autonomous unmanned survey vessel


Port of Liverpool owner Peel Ports has taken delivery of an autonomous unmanned survey vessel – the first ports group in the UK to make such an investment.

FITZROY is a one-tonne vessel, 4.5 metres in length, equipped with multibeam sonar equipment capable of hi resolution seafloor mapping down to 100 metres. It just had its first successful trial at Crosby Marine Lake, close to the port, in the last few days.

Its survey capabilities were able to provide hydrographic charts, offering valuable data of the lakebed which will feed into the upcoming planned dredging operations. It has been developed by L3 Harris.

Designed to provide autonomously improve working efficiency on the water and gather data about the marine environment, FITZROY can be used for hydrology research, scientific exploration, hydrographic survey, emergency search and rescue and other tasks

It uses GPS location tracking to follow pre-set waypoints and mission parameters, navigating autonomously while intelligently avoiding obstacles up to 50 metres ahead. The vessel communicates to the remote base station by WIFI, 4g and VHF radio.

Russell Bird, deputy group harbour master for Peel Ports, said “This recent investment shows Peel Port’s commitment to innovation in the marine environment whilst reducing emissions and enhancing safety.

“The use of autonomous and remote vehicles is growing exponentially, and we are delighted to be leading that charge in the ports sector”.

FITZROY’s remote capability presents many benefits including the removal of high-risk activities generally associated with crew working aboard small survey vessels in dynamic marine environments.

Its compact features will also facilitate its transportation to the group’s multiple port locations across the UK and will make her maiden voyage to Great Yarmouth next week.

Peel Ports Group is the UK’s second largest port group, owning and operating six of the UK’s most important ports – Liverpool, Heysham, Manchester Ship Canal, Medway (Sheerness / Chatham), Clydeport and Great Yarmouth.

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