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Back to the Future

Norway has a distinguished history of innovative ship design, and not just because of its long relationship and reliance on the sea. Norway was arguably the first nation to view the specific demands of the cargo as the central factor in adjusting a vessel's properties. This, coupled with a small nation's need to innovate in order to compete with larger rivals, has meant an impressive tradition in novel design.

Still, tradition is no guarantee for the future. But the recent boom in orders (an order reserve of NOK 18.4 billion at the beginning of June 2005) for Norway's shipyards indicates that this expertise keeps meeting rising challenges.


"Ship of the Year" Delivers
One good example is the winner of Skipsrevyen's "Ship of the Year" award for 2004, the platform supply ship (PSV) Viking Avant. Owned by Eidesvik Shipping, built by Aker Langsten and designed by Vik Sandvik, the Viking Avant used novel - reverse - thinking to place the superstructure decks astern.


The result has been increased safety and crew comfort and the ship's success is reflected in the new PSV vessel Gass-Avant, a vessel that will burn both fuel oil and LNG (liquefied natural gas) for better environmental performance. West Contractors will build the new design for Eidesvik, and deliver in August 2007.


1_back210x108.jpg (27043 bytes)The UT 776 represents Rolls-Royce's next generation of UT PSVs.
© Rolls-Royce plc


Success & Evolution

Another example of evolutionary success is the UT-Design series from Rolls-Royce Marine. The original Norwegian design was unveiled by Ulstein Trading in 1975 and has consistently adapted to meet up-to-the-minute customer demands. When Rolls-Royce bought Vickers in 1999, UT-Design was just one of a mini-cluster of acquisitions that made it a global maritime leader overnight. The UT 700 series were especially adapted to the harsh conditions of the North Sea, and over 400 vessels of this design are either in service or being built around the world.


Rolls-Royce announced its latest UT series in March 2005, the UT 770s (PSVs) and the 780s (Anchor Handling Towing Supply vessels [AHTS]). The new generation from UT-Design is the result of a complete review of its experience built up over the past 30 years, combined with new technological developments and expected demands from the offshore petroleum industry. Two of the new AHTS series are already under contract, from Aker Brattvaag for Island Offshore Management.


Rolls-Royce's emphasis on development and innovation can be seen in its "Vision" strategy, which plans the evolution of its products with a timeframe of up to 20 years in the future. Rolls-Royce Director of Research & Technology Rune Garen has discussed some radical avenues in propulsion, including the study of animal locomotion, oscillating propulsors, and mining and transport submarines for the offshore petroleum sector.


3_back210x140.jpg (40295 bytes)MARINTEK testers of the Ulstein X-BOW were pleasantly surprised that the hull carried so well and caused so little spray - even in extreme weather conditions.
© Ulstein Group



Ulstein - A Name to Reckon With

A prime candidate for most revolutionary and breathtaking recent shipping design innovation must be the Ulstein X-BOW series. With Ulstein Trading and its ubiquitous UT ships going to Vickers and then Rolls-Royce, Ulstein Design was formed to take up the task of keeping its name at the forefront of Norwegian ship design. Just a glance at the new Ulstein X-BOW, with its inverted bow, is enough to understand that this is a remarkable break with the past that could well make its name all over again.


Reversing Expectations
Ulstein Design manager Håvard Stave has said that the new ship will "turn how people view offshore vessels upside down", a safe prediction when presenting an inverted bow and raised hull that turn traditional notions around completely. The result: less vibration and noise for the crew and tests that exceed expectations. The new bow optimizes the craft's contact with waves, allowing it to dip gently and without slamming. Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute (MARINTEK) testers were surprised that the novel hull carried so well and caused extremely little spray, even in extreme weather conditions.


Bourbon Offshore Norway was so impressed by the Ulstein X-BOW's potential - and its performance tests - that they have commissioned one Ulstein AX104 and two of the PSV version, the Ulstein PX105.


The Ulstein X-BOW also eloquently demonstrates the strengths and opportunities offered by the Norwegian maritime cluster with another feature, a revolutionary safe anchor handling system (SAHS) from winch and handling specialist ODIM. A great number of functions in the system are remotely controlled, contributing to far safer working conditions for crews.  


The Ulstein Group also has clear views of the future, and has initiated ModNet, a joint research and development project using modular design and secure trans-national cooperation to build tomorrow's ships. ModNet involves heavyweight players like Kongsberg Maritime, Siemens, Eksportfinans, Norac, Brunvoll, Det Norske Veritas and Kunnskapsparken in Ålesund with its Centre of Expertise, as well as suppliers.


Back to Basics
The shipping design scheme with arguably the greatest potential global impact was never meant to be more than a concept. Swedish-Norwegian global ocean transport leader Wallenius Wilhelmsen decided to illustrate its commitment to making minimal environmental impact with a model of its eco-friendly vision.


As part of the Nordic exhibition at the World Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan, the company formed a team of environmental experts and designers, under the guiding hand of naval architect Per Brinchmann, to develop a zero emissions Ro-Ro (roll on, roll off) carrier for the future. The result, a "Green Flagship" dubbed the Orcelle in honour of an endangered species of dolphin, captured the imagination of its viewers, and the dream project has taken on a life of its own.


Just the Wind in Your Sails
Ships originally needed nothing more than the wind and the waves, and it was time to remember that they are surrounded by natural energy on the high seas. The Orcelle's three high-tech hydraulic sails are covered in photovoltaic solar panels. Twelve fins underneath use wave energy and transform it into hydrogen, electricity or mechanical energy. Half of the massive ship's energy would be produced by fuel cells that would combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity and the only emissions from the process are steam and heat.


The ship's construction could allow it to carry 10,000 cars - 50 percent more than current carriers - at a similar tonnage, thanks to being built from lightweight aluminium and reinforced, preferably recycled, thermoplast composites. The novel pentamaran hull would allow the ship to dispense with the need to use ballast water, the main industry ocean pollutant.


Wallenius Wilhelmsen public relations consultant Robert Minton-Taylor views naval architect Per Brinchmann, the brains behind the Orcelle, as an inspiring and energetic type who relishes tackling projects others believe to be impossible. This combination of design experience and free thinking was perfect.


!Even though the Orcelle looks a bit like the Starship Enterprise, nothing about it is really outlandish. It is all rooted in known science,! Minton-Taylor said.


"Stunned by the Response"
Extreme interest from around the world in the Orcelle's dazzling collection of eco-friendly energy techniques ranged from Iran to Israel to the United States. Surprisingly, there has also been a great deal of interest in the Orcelle from petroleum companies looking forward to expand their range to alternative energy sources.


The Orcelle also sparked contact and enquiries from a wide variety of interested parties - from enthusiastic amateur inventors to research and development departments, fuel cell makers and engine companies. WW Logistics is now discussing how they can assist and encourage technology of this kind.


The current status of the Orcelle project is "information exchange", with more concrete developments anticipated in coming months. Even if a ship only resembling the Orcelle is still in the distant future, the goal of inspiring innovative and beneficial ship design - by returning to nature - has, in many ways, already been met.



2_back400x388.jpg (94768 bytes)
The E/S (for Environmentally Sound Ship) Orcelle is named after the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, known in French as the Orcelle. Naval architect Per Brinchmann said the albatross inspired the project - the great marine bird uses 98 percent wind energy to fly, with only two percent self generated.
© Wallenius Wilhelmsen

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