Norfolk designer behind first unmanned cargo mission

SEA-KIT completed its first ever international commercial uncrewed transit - it delivered a box of o

SEA-KIT completed its first ever international commercial uncrewed transit - it delivered a box of oysters from the UK to Belgium. Photo: Sea-Kit International Ltd - Credit: Sea-Kit.Com

A remote controlled ship designed by a Stalham man has become the first cargo vessel in the world to cross the seas without a crew.

Ben Simpson, from Stalham, who designed the first cargo vessel in the world to cross the seas withou

Ben Simpson, from Stalham, who designed the first cargo vessel in the world to cross the seas without a crew. Picture: SUPPLIED BY BEN SIMPSON - Credit: Archant

Designer Ben Simpson, who was born and bred at the family boatyard, Simpsons, was one of two remote pilots working from a control centre in Essex, who completed the ship's 22-hour trip from Mersea Island to Ostend in Belgium.

They used a system known as Global Situation Awareness, which obtains location data from on-board GPS and radar and is fed back to the control room.

The ship carried 11 lbs (5kg) of Mersea Island molluscs to Belgium, and then made a return journey with Belgian beer on board.

The 40ft (12m) long Sea-Kit vessel USV Maxlimer is operated by Sea-Kit International Ltd, and is designed and developed by Mr Simpson's firm, Hushcraft Ltd, based in Tollesbury, Essex.

SEA-KIT completed its first ever international commercial uncrewed transit - it delivered a box of o

SEA-KIT completed its first ever international commercial uncrewed transit - it delivered a box of oysters from the UK to Belgium. Photo: Sea-Kit International Ltd - Credit: Sea-Kit.Com


You may also want to watch:


It arrived, without a human being on board, at Ostend at 9am on Tuesday, May 7, where it was welcomed by Belgian customs officers.

Mr Simpson said: "This voyage has been months in the making and to see it all come together is amazing.

Most Read

"The potential lies in its ability to be adapted to a range of tasks, whether it be transit hydrographic surveys, environmental missions, or marine safety and security.

"We're tremendously excited to push the technology to its limits and see what we can achieve."

SEA-KIT completed its first ever international commercial uncrewed transit - it delivered a box of o

SEA-KIT completed its first ever international commercial uncrewed transit - it delivered a box of oysters from the UK to Belgium. Photo: Sea-Kit International Ltd - Credit: Sea-Kit.Com

He added: "I grew up at the family boatyard in Stalham, now called Simpsons boatyard, and learned my trade there.

"I went to university in Southampton and then spent 10 years in the super yachts industry. I sailed around the world before starting this business in Essex, where I'm now based."

Sea-Kit is capable of speeds of up to four knots (4.6mph), has a capacity of up to 2.5 tonnes and is powered by a hybrid electric-diesel engine.

It is equipped with cameras, radar, microphones, thermal imaging and a back-up autonomous system to keep it and other sea-goers safe.

SEA-KIT completed its first ever international commercial uncrewed transit - it delivered a box of o

SEA-KIT completed its first ever international commercial uncrewed transit - it delivered a box of oysters from the UK to Belgium. Photo: Sea-Kit International Ltd - Credit: Sea-Kit.Com

The mission was supported by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Department for Transport, the Foreign Office, officials in Belgium and the European Space Agency.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus