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Jan De Nul: Meet the Vaquitas and Beluga

Posted on June 25, 2024

At Jan De Nul, innovation is key, especially within our Survey unit. In 2022, the department therefore ordered the Unmanned Survey Vehicle (USV) Beluga to perform hydrographic and quality surveys on maritime and offshore projects. A first within the dredging industry! In 2023, the more compact version, Vaquita 01, joined the team. Since then, the fleet expanded rapidly with a Vaquita 02 and Vaquita 03. Discover more about these vessels and where they are active below.


The Beluga and three Vaquitas are Unmanned Survey Vehicles (USV) that are deployed to perform hydrographic surveys. The vessels are equipped to scan the seabed while assessing the situation above water. This makes them perfectly suited throughout the different phases of the project;

  • during the tender phase, they perform seabed scans that are used for internal calculations,
  • before the project, they are deployed for insurvey,
  • during dredging, they carry out follow-up surveys,
  • after the project, they can assess the situation.

In addition, these USVs are fully automatic. We program the routes the vessels take beforehand so they can conduct the surveys independently.

What’s the difference between the Beluga and the Vaquitas?

The Beluga measures 6 by 2 metres and is considerably larger than the Vaquitas. Its size and weight of 2,800 kilograms make the vessel able to withstand heavier sea conditions on maritime and offshore projects.

The Vaquitas barely measure 2 by 1 metre and are extremely modular. The vessels can therefore be easily transported, fully calibrated, and quickly deployed for survey assignments.

Vaquita 01 and Beluga 01


Vaquita 01

In January 2023, Vaquita 01 conducted several surveys in Antwerp. As such, the vessel was used to support dredging works and to perform survey works in the tender phase of the MOGII project in Vlissingen, the construction of the Princess Elisabeth Island. Throughout 2023 it also played an important role in Aalst, where it performed test surveys to check the quality of Norbit’s integrated multibeam systems.

In 2024, the Vaquita 01 participates in the Al Omairah project, the construction of an artificial island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. This makes it immediately clear: the Vaquita can be used worldwide for our projects.

Vaquita 02

In March 2023, the Vaquita 02 was deployed to measure a quay wall at Batam in Indonesia. This is to support the vessels moored in our hub there. In the summer of 2023 in Eemshaven, the Netherlands, it provided crucial support in survey work for our offshore jack-up installation vessel Voltaire. From sweeping activities in the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal to ongoing weekly surveys in Vlissingen for the Princess Elisabeth project, the Vaquita 02’s adaptability and reliability are great.

Vaquita 03

Vaquita 01

New to the fleet is the Vaquita 03. It has been used for test surveys and ad hoc survey assignments in neighbouring countries since March 2024. Thus, it mainly replaces the Vaquita 01.


Between June and August 2023, the larger survey vessel Beluga 01 played a crucial role in the Hornsea II cable project in the UK North Sea. We placed the vessel in the operating area of the Daniel Bernoulli, which would normally have to carry out the surveys itself. This resulted in an operational time gain for the Daniel Bernoulli. The Beluga can not only conduct the survey much faster but can also sail closer to the wind turbines in a safer way. Then the Beluga again proved its efficiency. During the Northwester II wind project on the Belgian Continental Shelf, it saved a lot of survey time for the mother ship.

Beluga 01

From October to November 2023, the Beluga was prepared for operations in the Middle East. We equipped the vessel with a superior FLIR 360° camera, coolers, temperature sensors, and white panels to improve its heat resistance. Currently, the Beluga is working on the Lightning project in Abu Dhabi, proving how well it can adapt to different geographical locations and project requirements.


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