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Continuous monitoring of ship safety at sea

Sea vessels can suffer severe damages due to structural failures. An EU-funded project worked to develop an advanced method for finding defects and corrosion in safety-critical areas, without taking the vessel out of the water.
Continuous monitoring of ship safety at sea
Expanding on the logic and opportunities afforded by structural health monitoring of safety-critical engineering structures, the focus of the (SHIP INSPECTOR) project was on very-large crude carriers (VLCCs) and ultra-large crude carriers (ULCCs). Their approach took into account the numerous drawbacks of shipyard work — for example, down-time due to dry docking, operator fatigue, hazardous conditions, manual inspections, and the high injury accident rate. Against this background, project partners sought to develop an onsite novel defect-detection technique for the steel plates of these naval vessels.

The main objective was to apply long-range ultrasonic testing (LRUT) methods in the development of a monitoring system that can detect defects in ship hull structures. Project work covered research, demonstration, dissemination and exploitation, and the development of guidelines.

Researchers completed their objectives for delivery of a survey report of the requirements of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and agreement on test pieces and ships. An advanced UT flaw detector and UT linear-phased array was developed, representing an optimised procedure for the defined inspection scenarios.

Other scientific and technical objectives achieved include the development of methods for linear-phased array techniques, signal analysis and software development, and the design and analysis of load application apparatus for linear-phased array. The latter was aimed at enabling engineering of robust prototypes that can resist harsh environments such as those experienced by real ships. Nearing the end of the project period, the experimental study and evaluation was also completed, with outcomes presented at the final SHIP INSPECTOR meeting.

Technology developed by the project consortium, which includes SMEs, will help operators, classification societies and regulatory agencies to more effectively manage risk. Importantly, once implemented, the overall advances made by SHIP INSPECTOR will reduce the dangers faced by inspectors of sea-faring vessels as well as the injuries and deaths associated with the ship maintenance and inspection industry.

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