Essential or Optional? The Case for an Underwater ROV on every Ship

Underwater ROVs have emerged as a revolutionary tool, providing ship owners with unparalleled capabilities to inspect and maintain their ships with precision and ease. From post-storm inspections and corrosion assessments to ballast tank evaluations and pollution checks, these versatile ROVs offer a comprehensive solution for a multitude of maritime challenges. By leveraging the advanced technology of underwater ROVs, ship operators can ensure their vessels remain in optimal condition, reduce downtime, enhance environmental compliance, and uphold the highest standards of maritime safety.

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Below, we break down over 20 example scenarios that highlight the compelling reasons for having an underwater ROV on board every ship.

Did You Know? High-end underwater ROVs are now surprisingly affordable. The entry level ROV line from Blueye starts at just over 5k.

Post-Storm Inspection

After navigating through a severe storm, you suspect that floating debris may have caused damage to the hull. Deploying the ROV, you guide it along the ship’s sides and bottom, examining for any signs of impact or scraping. The ROV’s footage shows several areas with superficial scratches but no significant structural damage. This quick inspection allows you to confirm the hull’s integrity and continue your voyage without unnecessary delays.


Your vessel has been experiencing slight vibrations during operation, and you suspect the propeller might be fouled or damaged. Using the ROV, you inspect the propeller blades and find a tangled fishing net wrapped around one of them. The ROV’s live feed helps you direct the crew on how to safely remove the obstruction. This prompt action resolves the issue and restores the ship’s smooth operation without requiring divers.

Concerned about Corrosion

During a routine maintenance check, you decide to inspect the hull for signs of corrosion. By maneuvering the ROV along the hull, you can closely examine welded joints, seams, and other potential weak points. The high-definition video footage can be recorded and reviewed later, or shared with experts for further analysis. This proactive approach helps in planning maintenance work and preventing severe damage.

A minor collision entering port

Your vessel experiences a minor collision with another ship in a busy port. Immediately after the incident, you deploy the ROV to inspect the hull for any damage. The ROV’s agile movement allows it to navigate around the hull and capture detailed images and videos of the impacted areas. You identify several areas of small damage but nothing major that will impact the vessels performance. This quick assessment enables you to report accurate information to port authorities and decide on necessary repairs without delays.

Emergency Valve Operation

During a routine voyage, your cargo ship encounters an unexpected issue with one of its underwater intake valves. The valve is crucial for the ship’s ballast system, but it has become stuck in the closed position, preventing proper ballast operations. This issue poses a significant risk to the ship’s stability and balance, especially during rough seas. You deploy the ROV equipped with its advanced manipulator arm. The ROV is lowered into the water and guided to the location of the malfunctioning valve. Utilizing the manipulator arm’s gripping and turning capabilities, the ROV carefully grasps the valve handle. With precise control, the ROV operator aboard the ship remotely turns the valve, successfully opening it and restoring proper function to the ballast system.

Did you know? The Blueye X1 and X3 can both be fitted with advanced manipulator arms.

Grounding on an unchartered sand bank

While navigating through a channel post hurricane, your ship runs aground on a new and uncharted sandbank. Concerned about potential damage to the hull, you deploy the ROV. The ROV quickly reaches the hull’s bottom, where you observe several areas with scrapes and some minor dents. The ROV’s footage helps you assess the extent of the damage and decide whether the ship can safely continue its journey to the nearest port for repairs. This immediate assessment avoids the need for diver inspections, which could be dangerous in such conditions.

Recent Anti-Fouling Paint Suspicions

Your vessel was recently repainted with anti-fouling paint designed to prevent biofouling. After several months in service you notice a slight decrease in performance and you want to check the condition of this specialized coating. Deploying the ROV, you maneuver it along the hull to inspect the paint’s integrity. The ROV’s high-resolution camera reveals areas where the paint has worn off, allowing you to schedule touch-up work before biofouling becomes a problem. This preventive measure ensures the ship maintains optimal performance.

Suspicious Object

While anchored near a port, the crew spots a suspicious object floating toward the stern of the ship. The ROV is quickly deployed to investigate. The ROV’s camera reveals the object to be a large abandoned fishing net, which is promptly removed by the crew. This rapid response ensures the safety and security of the vessel without putting crew members at risk.

Mooring line

While docked at a port, you receive a report that one of the mooring lines is showing signs of wear. The ROV is deployed to inspect the underwater sections of the mooring lines. The ROV’s camera reveals significant fraying on one line, prompting an immediate replacement to prevent the risk of the ship breaking free during rough weather.

Pollution Check

As part of your environmental compliance program, you periodically monitor the water quality around your ship. Using the ROV equipped with sensors, you measure parameters like turbidity and dissolved oxygen levels. The ROV’s data helps you ensure that your operations are not negatively impacting the marine environment, and the information is used for regulatory reporting.

Cargo Retrieval

During a storm, some cargo containers were lost overboard. The ROV is deployed to locate and assess the condition of the lost containers. The ROV’s cameras locate the containers on the seabed, providing precise coordinates and visual confirmation. This information aids the salvage team in planning an efficient recovery operation.

Biofouling Check

Your ship has been at sea for several months, and you suspect that biofouling might be affecting the vessel’s performance. Using an underwater ROV, you can deploy it from the deck to inspect the entire underwater portion of the hull. The ROV’s camera will provide real-time video feed, allowing you to identify areas with significant biofouling. This information helps you decide if a cleaning operation is necessary, optimizing fuel efficiency and speed without the need for dry docking.

Harbor Inspection

A recent and severe storm storm blew through an unfamiliar port. You use the ROV to inspect the underwater condition of the docking area. The ROV identifies submerged debris that could pose a hazard to the ship’s hull. This information allows the port authorities to clear the area, ensuring a safe docking procedure and preventing potential damage.

Did You Know? Blueye ROVs can be deployed in under 2 minutes.

Pre-purchase Inspection

You are considering purchasing a second-hand vessel and want to ensure the hull is in good condition before finalizing the deal. Deploying the ROV, you conduct a thorough inspection of the hull, checking for any signs of previous damage, corrosion, or poor repairs. The ROV’s detailed footage provides you with critical information to make an informed decision about the purchase, potentially saving you from costly future repairs.

Pipeline Inspection

Your vessel operates near underwater pipelines, and you need to ensure these structures are not damaged or leaking. Using the ROV, you inspect the pipelines for any signs of wear, corrosion, or damage. The ROV’s camera captures detailed images, allowing you to report any issues to the relevant authorities for maintenance, thereby preventing environmental hazards and ensuring operational safety.

Did you know? the X3 from Blueye can operate at depths at up to 1,000 feet.

Hull Integrity Check in High-Risk Areas

Your vessel operates in areas with a high risk of piracy. To ensure there are no sabotage attempts, you deploy the ROV to inspect the hull and underwater sections of the ship for any suspicious devices or tampering. The ROV’s thorough inspection provides peace of mind and enhances the security protocols of your vessel.

Anchor Retrieval

While anchored at a busy port, your ship’s anchor gets entangled with an underwater obstruction. Using the ROV, you inspect the entanglement to understand the situation better. The ROV’s footage helps the crew devise a strategy to free the anchor without causing damage to the ship or the underwater infrastructure.

Oil Spill Detection

Your cargo ship carries hazardous materials, including oil. In case of a suspected leak, the ROV is deployed to monitor the water around the ship for any signs of oil spills. The ROV’s sensors and camera provide real-time data, helping you quickly identify the source and extent of the spill, allowing for immediate containment measures.

Ballast Tank Inspection

Suspected Sediment Build-Up Check

Ballast tanks often accumulate sediment and debris over time. Deploying the ROV, you inspect the interior of the ballast tanks to assess the level of sediment build-up. The ROV’s camera captures detailed footage of the tank’s floor, walls, and hard-to-reach areas, allowing you to determine if cleaning is necessary. This proactive approach ensures that the tanks remain efficient and prevents clogging of ballast pumps.

Did you know? the Blueye ROVs are self serviceable, do not require an ROV pilot, and have a 5 hour run time.

Corrosion Assessment

Corrosion is a common issue in ballast tanks.. Using the ROV, you conduct a thorough inspection of the tank’s internal surfaces, focusing on areas around welds and structural supports. The high-resolution video footage helps identify early signs of corrosion and structural weakening, allowing you to address these issues before they become severe, ensuring the longevity of the tank.

Coating Inspection

The protective coatings inside ballast tanks can deteriorate over time. The ROV is used to inspect the condition of these coatings, identifying areas where the coating has worn off or been damaged. This information is crucial for planning maintenance and re-coating schedules, preventing corrosion and maintaining the tank’s structural integrity.

Leak Detection

Leaks in ballast tanks can lead to water ingress into unintended areas, affecting the ship’s stability and buoyancy. Deploying the ROV, you inspect the tank for any signs of leakage, such as water trails or damp spots. The ROV’s ability to navigate confined spaces and capture detailed footage helps in pinpointing the exact location of leaks, facilitating timely repairs.

Biosecurity Compliance

International regulations require ships to manage their ballast water to prevent the spread of invasive species. The ROV is used to inspect the ballast water for any signs of marine organisms or contaminants. By capturing live footage and taking samples, you can ensure compliance with biosecurity regulations and avoid potential fines or detentions.

Post-Accident Inspection

In the event of an accident that impacts the ballast tanks, such as a collision or grounding, the ROV can be deployed to inspect the internal condition of the tanks. The ROV provides immediate visual assessment, identifying any damage to the tank’s structure, potential breaches, or water ingress. This rapid assessment is critical for determining the ship’s stability and planning emergency repairs.

Pre-Dry Dock Inspection

Before scheduling dry dock maintenance, the ROV is used to perform a comprehensive inspection of the ballast tanks. The ROV’s footage helps in identifying specific areas that require attention, such as corrosion spots, structural damage, or coating failures. This detailed assessment allows for better planning and resource allocation during dry dock, reducing maintenance time and costs.

Post-Dry Dock Verification

After dry dock maintenance, it is essential to verify the quality of the work done on the ballast tanks. Deploying the ROV, you inspect the tanks to ensure all repairs, re-coating, and cleaning were carried out correctly. The ROV’s high-definition footage provides confirmation that the tanks are in optimal condition and ready for service, ensuring operational safety and compliance.