Devon shipyard cuts metal on world’s first unmanned Fast Rescue Craft


Coastal Workboats has announced a new partnership with Scottish Search and Rescue technology innovator, Zelim. Metal was recently cut for Zelim’s first ‘Guardian Class’ Fast Rescue Craft vessel at Coastal Workboats’ Devon yard.

As a first of its kind, the 8m ‘Guardian Class’ combines Zelim’s innovative Swift Rescue Conveyor with a Fast Rescue Craft that has unmanned operation capability. The two companies signed contracts for the build of the aluminium prototype at the end of 2022.

Time is arguably the most critical factor in successful search and rescue operations. The need to reach the incident location then spot and recover casualties as fast as possible is paramount. Guardian is designed for speed and incorporates Zelim’s two-step recovery system. The system’s real time, AI-based casualty detection can spot and track multiple casualties in the water in all conditions. Once survivors are detected, Zelim’s Swift Rescue Conveyor can recover casualties from the water in a matter of seconds. The technology was trialled and successfully demonstrated to offshore wind industry stakeholders at Race Bank Offshore Wind Farm, off the coast of Grimsby, in May 2022.

Guardian will feature remote command and control capability, making it the world’s first uncrewed rescue vessel. The design is aimed at providing enhanced capability to respond to person overboard incidents and close standby cover for offshore operations. Deploying from a larger vessel offshore, Guardian will be first to arrive on scene to recover casualties and bring them back to the safety of the parent vessel. The technology has already garnered interest from the offshore energy sector, however, could revolutionise emergency response across the maritime industry. This is largely due to the vessel’s capability to respond in conditions usually deemed too dangerous for crewed Fast Rescue Craft.

For Coastal Workboats Director, Brian Pogson, the partnership marks a major step forward in marine safety, with the potential to significantly remap search and rescue possibilities.

“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with a company that shares our focus on finding safe, robust ways for technology and innovation to pave the way for a better, safer future at sea. It’s an exciting time to be exploring the possibilities of what our ever-evolving technology offers and we’re committed to ensuring that it is used to improve and safeguard our industry’s future.”