Hull Inspection – How to Save Time and Money with an ROV

Protecting a country’s borders can be challenging, particularly for island nations like New Zealand. Government organisations must protect the 15,134 km (9,404 mi) coastline from harmful marine pests, diseases, and other security threats. Although the arrival of a ship in port brings commercial benefits, it can present a biosecurity hazard. Or the vessel may carry illegal contraband so hull inspections are required.

Why Use an ROV for a Ship Inspection?

Using an inspection class remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for ship inspections makes security surveillance quicker, safer, and more affordable. Port authorities, customs, border security, and coast guards can use underwater drones to streamline underwater inspections and vessel searches.

Security organisations must inspect a vessel hull quickly when illegal activity is suspected. However, using a dive team can be extremely costly and time-consuming.

The underwater conditions in a port may also be hazardous to divers. These areas often have low visibility, high vessel traffic and predators. Furthermore, although anchored, currents can cause ships to reposition, endangering divers below the surface.

Boxfish Inspection ROV With Multibeam Imaging Sonar
The Boxfish ROV is equipped with imaging sonar and ready for the ship inspection.
Photo Credit: Boxfish Robotics.

Boxfish ROV Hull Inspection

Battery-operated Boxfish ROVs offer a remote-first solution to vessel inspection. Security inspectors can deploy them quickly to gather video and sensor data and monitor real-time results on the surface. The ROVs are compact and lightweight and can be launched by a team of two from a small boat or pier. They also have a powerful battery with a run-time of up to 15 hours (Boxfish ROV), depending upon conditions.

Security Hull Inspection Using a Boxfish ROV
The operators monitor and control the ROV from the nearby inflatable boat.
Photo Credit: Boxfish Robotics.

Using ROV Sonar for Target Identification

Water clarity in a harbour environment can be extremely poor due to sediment disturbance by tugs and boats. The Boxfish ROV’s 8,500-lumen lights provide optimal illumination up close. Plus, operators can equip the ROV with an Oculus M1200d multibeam sonar to aid navigation and target identification in murky water.

Using imaging sonar enables an inspection team to visualise a ship hull from a distance to identify structural areas of interest. Ship schematics can aid this process significantly, helping identify critical areas of a vessel where contraband could be hidden.

Maximum sonar coverage can be achieved by positioning the Boxfish ROV perpendicular to the vessel. The ROV operator then uses repetitive lateral movements to sweep along the side of the ship hull. Once security staff have identified areas of interest, they can use the ROV’s 4K underwater camera to get a closer look.

Sonar Imaging of the Ship Propeller Taken During the Inspection
Sonar imaging from a boat hull inspection showing the propeller.
Photo Credit: Boxfish Robotics.

ROV Operation in Strong Currents

Another challenge of working in a harbour environment is the impact of currents. Depending upon the size of a vessel, an inspection can take some time, and water conditions can change with the tide. Boxfish ROVs are robust and powerful with an eight 3D vectored thruster layout. These features enable the ROVs to remain stable and manoeuvre in any direction in strong currents.

Monitor and Record an ROV Hull Inspection

During hull surveillance and inspection, operators can monitor 4K high-definition video footage on the ROV control console in real time. The system also records high-resolution video and sonar for reference and documentation.


Using a hull inspection ROV can complement and enhance survey processes for port authorities and marine security organisations. A remote-first approach offers improved safety, saves time, and reduces costs. 

Want to learn more about Boxfish ROVs for underwater inspection? Visit our product page to investigate which remotely operated vehicle meets your needs.