“Innovative” “disruptive” €162 million project finally moves forwards
After a false start last year, the tender for construction of “a pioneering naval platform” with the capacity to project multiple capabilities, essentially robotic and unmanned systems (aerial, land drones and submarines), is finally moving forwards.
The brain-child of Naval Chief of Staff Admiral Gouveia e Melo – formerly Portugal’s vaccine ‘czar’ during the pandemic – has been billed as an “innovative” and “disruptive” project that will take the Navy to a new and exciting level.
Financing of €100 million was originally set aside in the RRP (Recovery and Resilience Plan) – but after a first tender attracted no takers, another €62 million was added (according to Correio da Manhã. Lusa has put the figure at €32 million), and interest piqued.
The second tender, put out in September, has been won by Dutch shipyard group Damen, which will now have 29 months to construct the new vessel, also known as a ‘drone carrier’.
The concept is “a scientific ship, which will be a kind of base on the high seas, equipped with scientific laboratories, accommodation for 90 people permanently and another 100 if necessary, for example, in an emergency evacuation situation, ramps for loading and unloading vehicles, heliport, tracks for aerial drones, a bay for underwater drones and speedboats, various cranes for hoisting research material – a “platform for projecting capabilities”.
The Navy maintains the “ship will contribute to knowledge, preservation and sustained exploration of the ocean, to direct support for populations in response to crises and to the strengthening of the country’s operational and scientific capacity, particularly for the mapping and protection of living and non-living resources, but also for surveillance and maritime surveillance, maritime search and rescue and response to maritime accidents, mainly using Unmanned Vehicles (VENT) to perform their tasks”.
In its first application for RRP funding, the Navy stressed that “this vessel, idealised under a new concept of operation, has no military requirements and is not armed. Its main functions are environmental monitoring, namely in the fight against maritime pollution, fishing surveillance, preservation of resources, development of knowledge and research in hydrographic and scientific areas”.
According to the text, “all its drones are unarmed and the sensors used serve to monitor, survey and control maritime spaces under national jurisdiction.”
The ship “will also serve for the eventual transport and evacuation of citizens in case of need.
“With the dual use concept, and since it is a technologically innovative and disruptive ship, it will allow technological solutions to be tested in the robotic area, contributing to the development of national technology”.
The project represents a “stimulus for the entire community linked to the sea, industry and academia”, said Rear-Admiral Pires, whose position in the Navy is Director of Ships.
He added that it is the Navy’s intention to “involve national industry as much as possible” in this project.
The contract with Damen will be signed tomorrow in the presence of defence minister Helena Carreiras at the Naval Museum in Lisbon.