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Improving maritime operations with customised ‘smart’ vessels

Innovative technologies, such as the Internet of Things, have been exploited across a range of industries but remain underutilised by the maritime sector. LINCOLN combined smart technologies with ‘lean fact-based design’ to create new specialised maritime vessels.

Transport and Mobility

From aquaculture to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean – there is a pressing need for more specialised, economically viable, eco-friendly maritime vessels. The EU-supported LINCOLN project has developed three new types of maritime vessels which reduce operational costs, improve shipbuilding competitiveness – through lower design and production costs – while allowing safer patrol and rescue activities. The three solutions were: a hybrid-propulsion multiplatform catamaran, optimised for crew transfers to/from ocean energy and aquaculture platforms, developed in Spain; a modular, high-speed patrol boat platform, designed and built in Norway; and an emergency response vessel with recovery capability and integrated Hydro-jet Dynamic Position System (HjDPS) for improved stability, which was studied and tested in Greece.

A lean, fact-based design approach

LINCOLN’s Marine Gateway smart solution for commercial vessels, allows sensors to collect on-board data about vessel performance and conditions. Data can include pressure on the hull, vibrations and local short-term weather forecasts. This data is sent to a cloud-based web platform for processing and visualisation (speed, acceleration, route, etc.). This helps the researchers optimise design, using a semi-automated Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) hull simulator, LincoSim. The data also informed the project’s Life Cycle Performance Assessment tool, which evaluates both economic and environmental impacts from the early design stages. “Using the data, we build vessels in a lean, modular way, based on reusable platform moulds for different vessel models. This reduces customisation, shipbuilding time, vessel maintenance and parts, making it more cost-effective in the long term and eco-friendly,” Lucia Ramundo, research coordinator elaborates. Another core concept was the project’s ‘Vessel as a Service’ business model. By monitoring the vessel through its smart solutions, LINCOLN built knowledge about a vessel’s behaviour during its operational life. This enables it to evaluate the cost of the vessel, along with the ongoing aftercare, upgrades and maintenance. LINCOLN ran a variety of tests for the technological developments and vessel design. For example, several sea trials were conducted to optimise data gathering (e.g. sensor position), and IoT solution development. This included running Portweather algorithms for short-term weather forecasts and the web platform interface. The designers ran simulations of the vessels in the LincoSim CFD environment. A physical towing tank test and tests at sea validated the vessels’ designs and confirmed the accuracy of the LincoSim simulation results. LINCOLN innovations, such as the HjDPS, which stabilises vessels even with the engine off, will help maritime authorities better manage rescue operations and increase safety. Additionally, ergonomic designs will improve comfort for crew and passengers.

The need for a cultural shift

Currently the Marine Gateway and the IoT platform are close to being available in the market. The Marine Gateway’s core architecture was already used to develop an Industry 4.0 gateway, called 4ZeroBOX. This has already been sold to several EU companies. A simplified version of the IoT platform is commercially available for the recreational boating sector. “Changing mindsets has proven difficult, both for customers to accept the ‘Vessel as a Service’ pricing model, and for a traditional industry to install the technology,” says Ramundo. To help overcome this reticence, more research to improve system interoperability, as well as data privacy and cyber security, is needed. Additionally, the team is working on fine-tuning consistent data formats and usage at the design level.


LINCOLN, marine, boat, vessel, rescue, catamaran, patrol-boat, emergency response, sea, maritime

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