A BOAT carrying world famous Mersea oysters made its way across the English Channel all without a single member of crew onboard.

The vessel has become the first ever shipment to be completed using remote control.

The groundbreaking mission was completed when the 40ft boat, known as a Sea-Kit vessel, made its way to Orstend in Belgium.

Its cargo was just 5kg of molluscs from Mersea and it took 22 hours to complete the trip as the boat is only capable of speeds of 4.6 mph.

The autonomous boat was greeted by Belgian customs officers and then made a return journey with some Belgian beer onboard.

The mission was possible thanks to a host of technological gadgets which helped feed back data to a control room.

The vessel was made by Tollesbury-based Hushcraft Ltd which is run by Ben Simpson of SEA-KIT International Ltd.

Mr Simpson said: “This voyage has been months in the making, and to see it all come together is amazing. It demonstrates not only the capacity of SEA-KIT and the robustness of the design, but the value and effectiveness of the cloud based communications technologies involved in uncrewed transit.

“Its potential lies in its ability to be adapted to a range of tasks, whether it be transit, hydrographic surveys, environmental missions, or marine safety and security.

“We’re tremendously excited to push the technology to its limits and see what we can achieve.”

The vessel is equipped with cameras, radar, microphones, thermal imaging and a back-up autonomous system to keep it and other sea-goers safe.

The team behind the mission said they will now set their sights on further testing the capabilities of the vessel.

Sea-Kit is capable of speeds of up to four knots, has a capacity of up to 2.5 tonnes and is powered by a hybrid electric-diesel engine.

Remote pilots use a system known as Global Situation Awareness which obtains location data from on-board GPS and radar.

The mission was done with the support of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Department for Transport, the Foreign Office, officials in Belgium and the European Space Agency.