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Technology-Friend or Foe to Seafarers-Ship Construction

Updated: May 15, 2020


Dear All,

Continuing the topic on technology –friend or a Foe to seafarers, today we shall look at the vessel construction perspective

Ship construction has obviously seen a sea of change from the titanic times which we have sort of normal however in the recent past there have been very subtle changes in the ship construction industry which may not be readily visible to all but happening continuously.

The technology changes can be broadly classified into 3 major categories

1) The material being used for building and covering the same

2) Designing of the ship on drawing board and

3) The technology being used to build the ship from sheets of raw material

1) The material being Used-Steel is an easy answer for the material for the construction of the vessel however there are numerous experiments happened and happening in changing the composition of the steel or completely change the steel itself and find a more durable, rust proof, light weight material to withstand the stress of the seas during the ships life time. Some of the alternate materials being tested and used sparingly for testing purposes are as follows

a. Sandwich Plate System (SPS): It is a process of composting two metals plates by bonding it with polyurethane elastomer core. This avoids usage of steel which requires additional stiffening hence makes the structure light weight and less prone to corrosion.

b. Buckypaper: Buckypaper is a thin sheet made up of carbon nano-tubes which are basically strands for carbon less than the thickness of our hair but very durable and rust free

Next to discuss is the coating on the plates which are also equally important more so on the hull which directly is touching the water or under the water. This area called the “boot top” which keeps coming out and goes below water for every unloading and loading operations is much more prone to corrosion. The portion of the hull always below the water has a different set of problems with the marine growth which increases friction and reduces the efficiency of the propulsion there by reducing the speed of the vessel through water. There has been regulation on Anti fouling and improvements on the composition of the anti-fouling used.

There are 4 major methods used in the anti-fouling including the coating with anti-fouling chemicals

1) Electrolytic system

2) Chemical dosing

3) Ultrasonic system

4) Electro-chlorination


2) Technology on designing of the ships-This part of the construction cycle of the ships is the biggest leap in advancement in betterment of the present day vessels and the future vessels yet to come.

Computer aided designs have reduced the production cycles and also assisted in building many experimental vessel models with variations to best suit the regulatory requirements, the commercial requirements and at the same time ease of operation by seafarers. Earlier, when the yards designed a hull, they made a lot of assumptions. They had to do a lot of manual work, and then they tested the performance in a model tank. Today they analyse, simulate and more or less build a model in the computer and test that model. And it’s very accurate compared to earlier methods.

Also a major concern in ship construction has always been environmental considerations which also become regulatory-the metamorphosis of a tanker from OBO to a double hull tanker is an excellent example of such development where combination of environmental considerations and regulatory requirements contributed.

Another major challenge now is the ballast water where ships are being designed which may not take in ballast only.

The above are few environmental considerations for the designing of the ships and now we go to our next point which is the building of the ship and how technology has improved there.


3) Technology in building ships has again seen a big leap because of the computerization where in it is now possible to build slices of ships separately including all its fittings and equipments, bring it to the yard and weld all of the small pieces together. Here all the cutting of the plates in the initial stage till the welding of the spate pieces of the ship are all robotized. The accuracy and quality of the work is very high and less labour intensive.

The world of ship building and construction are going to a mode of remote sensing along with robotisation where possible. Earlier we used to see only fire and heat sensors, now and in the future the ship will be full of sensors used for hull stress monitoring, vibration monitoring in the machinery spaces etc. This sensor will be automatically talking to Robots or Artificial intelligence machines to alert the seafarers or may take corrective actions on its own.

Now let’s come to our Pros and Cons section where we try to decide whether Technology is our friend or a Foe

Pros

1) Technology is always good and Construction of the vessel has surely helped seafarers with the ease with which they are able to perform their responsibilities onboard.

2) Construction of the vessel mostly helps the owners with reduction in fuel usage, better efficiency and better corrosion prevention.

3) The ergonomics of our work place have improved a lot after the new construction methods have been adopted.

Cons

1) The margins of safety have been Reduced-Earlier we did not have accurate stress levels monitoring on the hull, however with computers the stresses on the hull in different conditions can be accurately measured, hence as the safety margins are very less any error in the calculation can end up in serious error in the construction of the vessel.

2) There is always one common peril of technology is that it takes away your Jobs and the same is true with advancements in construction where the jobs earlier were done by manual labour is being done by robots.

Technology always plays an important role in seafarer’s life and we have to learn to live with increasing technology and it is important for us to learn and understand the technology. technology is here to stay!

Change with the times or be left out!!!

We will be back with our next topic, till then TC stay safe!

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