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Baltic Workboats to Build Autonomous Warships

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

June 29, 2023

(Image: Baltic Workboats)

(Image: Baltic Workboats)

A consortium led by Estonian shipbuilder Baltic Workboats (BWB) has won a funding of 95 million euros in the European Defence Fund competition to create a new type of naval platform for European fleets.

The initiative, called EUROGUARD, aims to develop a modular and semi-autonomous surface vessel platform with a remote control system that could be used across Europe. The next-generation design, adaptable for various missions, would enable the application of this type of ship in different naval command and support roles.

BWB, based in Nasva, Saaremaa, is leading the consortium of 23 companies and research institutions from major European maritime nations such as France, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Denmark, and others. The group received a total of 95 million euros, with 65 million euros from the European Defence Fund and 30 million euros from participating countries and companies involved in the project. BWB is responsible for constructing the test vessel, all the work will take place in Nasva factory, Saaremaa. The prototype’s sea trials will also be conducted in Estonian waters in collaboration with the Estonian Navy.

During the project, a prototype will be developed that can independently perform various tasks. The specific tasks will be determined through multi-year research and development activities, but in general, the vessel should be capable of autonomous navigation, obstacle and threat detection, collision avoidance, and other mission-specific tasks. The prototype must adhere to the principle of modularity, allowing it to be assembled according to specific needs or tasks. Innovation is also expected in the propulsion system, with environmental sustainability being an important keyword.

“This funding is recognition of our company’s strength and dedication,” said Margus Vanaselja, CEO of BWB. “We are extremely pleased to participate in such an ambitious project, but we also feel a great responsibility for a project that requires several years of effort from both the company and the team to achieve the set goals. Entrusting the consortium leadership to a company from Estonia definitely signifies an important quality mark for us,” he added.

The idea of the project and the description of its principles in the preparatory phase, which began in 2021, were significantly guided by the Estonian Ministry of Defence and the Estonian Navy. Through strong collaboration with the consortium, the expectations for the project’s outcomes were set, with cost-effectiveness and multifunctionality being the most important aspects. The prototype is expected to be completed in 2027.

“The Navy is closely monitoring the project’s development and is ready to support and eventually utilize it. The combined use of unmanned and manned systems is something that all armed forces are moving towards, including us,” said Commodore Jüri Saska, Commander of the Estonian Navy.

“Developing and enhancing defense capabilities are of great importance to us. The EUROGUARD project is extremely important for Estonia—it brings the revolution of autonomy and modularity to the maritime field,” said Kusti Salm, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence.

The European Defence Fund aims to strengthen the European defense industry and promote research and development in the field. The fund supports the development of innovative projects and the creation of unified defense capabilities across Europe.

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