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Final Report Summary - ALERT (Assessment of life-cycle effect of repairs on tankers)

Maritime transport is a principal method of carrying goods. Even though it causes minimal environmental disruption compared to alternatives, the nature of tankers’ cargo, which often includes hazardous and polluting liquid substances, has the potential to cause catastrophic damage in the event of a major structure failure. Recent tanker accidents within the EU area highlighted the necessity to understand vessels' defects and weaknesses and to propose methods to repair such weaknesses in order to increase navigation safety.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) recommendations required that all tankers after 1993 were fitted with double hulls or constructed with alternative designs, approved by IMO. In addition, existing tankers ought to be converted, or taken out of service, after a certain age. The regulatory framework was revised after 'Erika' accident and all single-hull vessels had to be replaced by 2015, while extensive inspections on tankers and bulk carriers became obligatory. However, the 'Prestige' accident cast doubts upon the safety of major repairs which were conducted on older ships. The ALERT project aimed to address the emerged questions, related to tankers' structural failures and weaknesses, from both a rational and technical point of view.

The project had the following objectives:
1. to examine current practices in the ship repair industry and propose improvements to the underlying processes;
2. to review existing and emerging restoration technologies and propose areas for development;
3. to investigate loss of structural integrity as a result of existing methods and define solutions;
4. to improve tankers' efficiency via inspection, maintenance and repair scheduling;
5. to develop a framework capable of determining the extent of restoration that a vessel could safely undergo with minimum additional risk of structural failure during its remaining service life;
6. to promote a safe European transportation system;
7. to reduce human losses, injuries and environmental risks associated with transportation of hazardous goods by tankers;
8. to encourage best practice in the tanker shipping and maintenance community;
9. to effectively disseminate the results so as to facilitate their acceptance and application; and
10. to coordinate relevant efforts and demonstrate the positive influence of coordination activities.

The investigated potential research and development (RD) areas included ship restoration practices, condition monitoring of ships, repair related structural assessment methods and through life management of ships. Each project component was examined by one out of five distinct, yet interrelated, work packages (WPs). The last WP focused on dissemination, coordination and knowledge exploitation activities. The acquired experience was communicated to industry, academia and the general public through publications, presentations in conferences and symposiums and via the project website.