A SUBSEA engineer is trialling “world first” marine equipment it believes could save wind farm operators more than £1bn.

Modus Seabed Intervention is testing a robotic underwater vehicle docking station.

Bosses at the Darlington-based firm say the berthing base offers the potential for subsea units to remain at offshore wind farms without the need for support vessels.

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They added that as increasing numbers of companies use autonomous underwater craft to perform survey and inspection work, the docking station could save at least £1.1bn in operational costs over the next 25 years and reduce the need for staff to work in hazardous environments.

According to Jake Tompkins, Modus managing director and project lead, his business’ trial apparatus, described as a world first and delivered in partnership with Northumberland engineer Osbit, has been designed to allow vehicles to re-charge and download mission commands.

He revealed testing will be carried out at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Northumberland, while Innogy has also agreed to commercial trials on its Gwynt y Môr farm, off the Welsh coast.

The move comes a year after The Northern Echo reported Modus had tested an unmanned hybrid sub-aqua craft, and Mr Tompkins said he was delighted the firm had reached its latest stage.

He said: “We have been focusing on the development of hybrid autonomous underwater vehicle systems to be deployed for seabed survey and inspection.

“Part of our vision is to see them becoming field resident, offering significant cost savings and quality benefits to the markets and our customers.”

Andrew Kay, of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, praised the project, saying it has the potential to make a real difference to the subsea energy sector.

He added: “Current crewed seabed surveys and inspections carried out using hullmounted equipment and support vessels are time consuming, expensive and often heavily weather dependent.

“But the system being developing with Modus and Osbit will be fully self-sufficient, reducing operational and maintenance costs, and levels of personnel required.”

Back in 2015, The Northern Echo reported how Modus had secured a deal to scour the Merseyside coastline for unexploded Second World War bombs.

The company picked up a contract from Dong Energy to search for wartime explosives to help prepare the site for its Burbo Bank Extension wind farm.

Liverpool was bombed heavily during the conflict, with its port a particular target for German planes.