How are merchant ships and ships tracked

Improving maritime shipping through tailor-made “intelligent” ships

Innovative technologies like the Internet of Things are used in a number of industries. But not so in maritime shipping. They are still only rarely used here. LINCOLN combined intelligent technologies with “lean fact-based design” to create new specialized ocean-going vessels.

From aquaculture to the Mediterranean migration crisis, there is an urgent need for more specialized, economically viable and environmentally friendly ocean-going vessels. The EU-funded LINCOLN project has therefore developed three new types of ocean-going vessels that lower operating costs, improve shipbuilding competitiveness - through lower construction and production costs - while enabling safer patrol and rescue missions. The three solutions were: a multi-platform catamaran with hybrid propulsion, optimized for crew transfer to / from marine energy and aquaculture platforms, developed in Spain; a modular platform for high speed patrol boats designed and built in Norway; and an emergency tug with salvage capability and an integrated system for dynamic positioning by high pressure water jet for improved stability that has been researched and tested in Greece.

Approach to a sleek, fact-based design

With the intelligent solution for merchant ships called Marine Gateway from LINCOLN, sensors can collect data on the performance and condition of ships directly on board. The data can include pressure on the hull, vibrations and local short-term weather forecasts and is sent to a cloud-based web platform for processing and visualization (speed, acceleration, route, etc.). This helps the researchers to optimize the design with the help of a semi-automatic hull simulator, the LincoSim, which is based on computational fluid dynamics. In addition, the data was also fed into the project's own life cycle performance assessment tool, which assesses both the economic and ecological impacts in the early design phase. “Using the data, we build ships in a lean, modular way based on platform shapes that can be reused for different ship models. This reduces the adaptation to customer requirements, the shipbuilding time, the maintenance of the ships and the number of parts, which makes the ships cheaper and more environmentally friendly in the long term, ”explains research coordinator Lucia Ramundo. Another core concept was the project's “ship as a service” business model. By monitoring the ship using its intelligent solutions, the LINCOLN project enabled knowledge of the behavior of a ship during its operating life to be acquired. This makes it possible to evaluate the cost of the ship as well as ongoing aftercare, upgrade and maintenance. LINCOLN project members conducted various tests for technological developments and ship design. For example, several attempts were made at sea to optimize data acquisition (e.g. sensor position) and develop IoT solutions. This included the execution of Portweather algorithms for short-term weather forecasts and the interface of the web platform. The designers also carried out simulations of the ships in the LincoSim environment based on numerical fluid mechanics. A physical tow tank test and tests at sea enabled the design of the ships to be validated and the accuracy of the LincoSim simulation results confirmed. LINCOLN's innovations, such as the system for dynamic positioning by high-pressure water jet, which stabilizes ships even when the engine is switched off, will help the maritime authorities to better control rescue operations and increase safety. In addition, ergonomic designs will contribute to the comfort of the crew and passengers.

The need for cultural change

The marine gateway and the IoT platform are currently about to be launched on the market. The core architecture of the marine gateway has already been used to develop an Industry 4.0 gateway called 4ZeroBOX, which has since been sold to several EU companies. There is also a simplified version of the IoT platform that is commercially available for the recreational boat sector. "It has proven difficult to change traditional mindsets, both with customers in terms of accepting the 'ship as a service' pricing model and in a traditional industry in terms of installing the technology," said Ramundo. To overcome this reluctance, further research is needed to improve system interoperability, as well as data protection and cybersecurity. Finally, the team is also currently fine-tuning consistent data formats and usage at the design level.

key terms

LINCOLN, sea, boat, ship, rescue, catamaran, patrol boat, emergency response, sea, maritime shipping