Are vessels and railcars missing out on new tank cleaning robotics and A.I.?

The current surge in robotics and artificial intelligence which has been revolutionizing the large diameter tank cleaning industry has naturally been focussed on the big “carrot”. That’s the large-diameter tanks which were very manual labour intensive requiring a large degree of confined space entry.

As the robotics and artificial intelligence for these continue to evolve and become ever more intelligent and efficient, it is only natural the focus migrates into the vessels, railcars and other smaller diameter vessels.

They may not be as intensive an undertaking, but there are a lot more of them in the industry.

Vessels and treaters are among the most varied and challenging pieces of equipment to tackle on any industrial cleaning job.

Due to their small size relative to tanks, it isn’t possible to use full-sized tank cleaning tools inside vessels.

Additionally, many vessels are in high-up or hard-to-reach places, making it very difficult to mount full-sized equipment on them in an effective way.

The full-size tank cleaning equipment available is generally heavy, bulky, and difficult to place without the aid of lifting devices and due to the location of most vessels, generally haphazardly obstructed when attempting to place this equipment into the vessel.

As such, unfortunately, with the substantial number of vessels out there and varied designs and locations, a lot of vessel cleaning has been relegated to and continues to require a major component of manual cleaning.

That is confined space entry, which if not being eliminated in the industry, is certainly not considered a best practice and has been relegated to only final cleans and mop up.

Our supplier, Radical Robotics, has designed a better way

Radical Robotics has taken the experience of what works in their Robotics and A I used in the large tank cleaning process and designed an effective user-friendly intelligent system specifically for vessels, rail cars and other small diameter tanks (including invert or other contaminated transport units).

First, the vessel is modelled using Radical Software’s VantageSuite project management software, which has recently been updated to include a whole range of tools geared towards vessel projects.

This part of the system allows you to layout your vessel with all its nozzles, manways and internal and external obstructions to determine how best to attack the job.

It will also allow you to simulate the entire process from start to finish, just like you would do on a larger tank to fully flesh out how best to attack the job at hand.

This means that you’ll be able to quote your job accurately and present your client with a 3D realization of your proposed cleaning process.

It’s important to have a clear idea of what you need in terms of equipment and where that equipment needs to be placed to clean the vessel as efficiently as possible.

Next, it’s time to clean the vessel. This is where the vessel cleaning process deviates somewhat from the tank cleaning process, particularly using the Radical Robotics system.

Whereas on a big tank, you would use tank sweeps and a Circulation Management Tank to circulate the product inside the tank, the size and shape of a vessel make that process impractical at best.

Unlike their larger counterparts, vessels come in all shapes and sizes and can also be located in some extremely difficult-to-reach places. This can include high up in the air on scaffolding or surrounded by other vessels and various equipment.

Naturally, this creates an issue of access. Existing tank and vessel cleaning tools are heavy, requiring the use of a crane to move and mount. If the crane can’t get to the nozzle the tool is being mounted on, then it’s impossible to mount the tool.

This means that the vessel cleaning process naturally suffers from inefficiencies, as it sometimes isn’t possible to mount the right tool to the right spot to get the job done as effectively as possible.

Just imagine trying to mount a heavy 6” sweep or manway cannon to a vessel located 20’ in the air and you’ll have a pretty good idea as to why it just doesn’t work.

So, the team over at Radical Robotics came up with a solution: a small, lightweight tool that has the flexibility to act as both a tank sweep and, if needed, high-pressure water cannon, all while being small enough to fit through a 4” nozzle.

The Radical Robotics Vessel Cleaning Tool

This is the latest tool in the Radical Robotics arsenal of industrial cleaning equipment.

Designed specifically for streamlining the vessel cleaning process, the Radical Robotics Vessel Cleaning Tool (VCT) was created to work on vessels of all shapes and sizes.

Built to withstand any abuse the job site can throw at it, the Radical VCT is completely hand portable, weighing in at under 200 lbs.

This means that it can easily be rigged up by two people without the use of a crane, allowing you to avoid any obstructions such as scaffolding or other vessels that may impede access to your entry points.

Unlike other vessel cleaning tools on the market, which rotate randomly within the vessel using water pressure, the Radical VCT can be directly controlled to spot clean specific areas of the unit or programmed to perform a wash cycle using the Radical VantageSuite.

The entire process is orders of magnitude more efficient, as an operator can take manual control to work on a specific area of the vessel.

Plus, like all Radical Robotics equipment, the VCT ties interfaces with the VantageSuite to ensure that the initial plan is executed to perfection.

That connectivity with the VantageSuite also has the effect of making the VCT easy to use.

Rather than a vessel cleaning job requiring a separate crew with separate equipment, the tool’s ability to tie into the Radical system makes it possible for a crew on site cleaning a tank to pull the VCT out of the command centre and clean a vessel at the same time using the same setup, essentially doing two jobs for the price of one.

The VCT is also totally configurable based on the situation it is being used in.

For example, the central shaft can be moved backwards and forwards to ensure that you can clean as much of the vessel as possible without ever moving the tool.

A high flow nozzle allows for quick and efficient debulking of the vessel with the option to hook up a Radical Robotics Circulation Management Tank to maximize this process.

Once the vessel is debulked, the tool can be converted to a higher-pressure, low flow nozzle for final cleaning.

All these features are geared towards making the tool as versatile as possible, which is extremely important when you’re working on equipment with form factors as diverse as vessels can have.

The tool can be deployed in any position on the vessel provided there is a 4” or larger nozzle, eliminating any issues with obstructions blocking water flow and allowing for the process to be completely zero-entry.

And when used in concert with the Radical Robotic Camera you truly have a complete unmanned,  Class 1, Division 1 (groups C and D) for USA & Canada/ ATEX Zone 0 certified, robotic and artificially intelligent system.

Larger Vessels

The Radical Robotics VCT makes it much easier to get into and clean smaller vessels with fewer and smaller access points than conventional tanks. But it also is a great system as the dynamics of the vessels change and increase in size with a multitude of options to tackle any vessel, regardless of size or configurations.

Multiple nozzles are placed in strategic entry points, in extreme cases inserting one of the Radical manway cannons in ease of access end ports to initial blast the heavy solids if need be.

The options are many and varied to ensure no vessel is too complex.

As all Radical tools and systems supplied by KOS Automated Solutions are controlled by one common operating system, the ability to integrate all existing tools and systems into the process is endless.

This includes the Circulation Management Tank, which can be used during the vessel cleaning process to recover and reuse liquid from the cleaning process.

This means that the job will use less water and cutter stock, cutting costs and maximizing the amount of product that can be recovered while also ensuring that the whole system runs as smoothly as possible.


While vessels have always provided a unique challenge in the industrial cleaning space.

Their small size and inaccessibility make them extremely difficult to tackle using traditional zero-entry equipment.

That’s why the design team at Radical Robotics decided to focus their considerable creative and technical resources on making the vessel cleaning process as smooth as possible with the launch of the new Vessel Cleaning Tool.

To learn more about the Radical Robotics vessel cleaning system and how it can revolutionize your processes, get in touch with us!