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Charting a Course for the Future

The increasingly competitive and globalized shipping industry constitutes a constantly changing sea for the Norwegian maritime sector. To maintain the country's extraordinary level of success in shipping, the public and private sectors are investing in finding better ways to navigate the oceans safely, cleanly and ever more efficiently. New and established research programmes and institutes - such as MARUT, MARINTEK and MAROFF - are fostering the development of cutting-edge technology and setting a course for future growth in the industry.

MARUT - Fresh Thinking for a New Environment

The latest programme launched with an aim at stimulating new thinking in the Norwegian shipping sector is MARUT (Maritime Development), a part of the Norwegian government's Innovation 2010 effort. Funded with an initial investment of NOK 40 million, MARUT's goal is to establish more coordinated, highly targeted efforts from government and industry to free up innovation and improve value creation in the nation's ocean-going businesses. 


The initiative has drawn the enthusiastic participation of the leading actors in the Norwegian maritime industries, including TBL (Federation of Norwegian Manufacturing Industries), the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, DNV, MARINTEK, the Research Council of Norway, Rolls-Royce Marine, Innovation Norway, as well as the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, and others.

In the programme's initial stage, MARUT took on seven main studies to identify challenges and areas of potential growth for the sector. It is hoped that these studies will serve as a platform to launch a process of real-world performance improvement in the industry. 


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Developing small-scale, short-sea distribution of LNG is the focus of "Coast Gas", one of the key research areas for the marine development programme MARUT.


MARUT's Seven Areas of Opportunity - A Brief Overview

Coast Gas
This project examines how to further develop liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a key energy source both nationally and internationally. Specifically, the study calls for the development of cost-effective components, equipment and ships aimed at reducing investment outlay for entering the LNG arena, along with creating incentives to stimulate the greater use of gas on ships and in new markets.


Cold Climate
Due to the extreme conditions and delicate environment of the northern seas, improved analytical tools for the gathering and processing of environmental data will be more crucial in the future as operations move into vulnerable areas. The "Cold Climate" project lays the groundwork for research in this area, and urges further development in the testing of equipment and training of personnel for handling crisis situations, particularly those demanding international coordination.


The offshore production of seafood, combined with effective distribution systems and the savvy marketing of Norwegian products to new markets are seen as key elements for success in this sector. The study calls for an industry environment that will ease the introduction of new technology and the development of competitive transport alternatives.


The EU's goals of shifting more cargo transport from land to sea provides an opportunity for the sector that can best be utilized by the development of new ships, equipment and logistic technology for short-sea shipping. It is felt that industry-wide cooperation is needed to create a solidly financed effort, resulting in competitive, effective, module-based, series-produced craft and systems for this market.


Bridge Builder
This study looks for the best way to support strong growth for Norwegian equipment suppliers in the shipping, fishing and oil and gas exploration markets internationally. One potential way is through the development, production and offering of equipment in module packs, while building more extensive networks in the maritime value chain in shipbuilding nations with great potential, such as South Korea, China and Vietnam. 


Smart Shipping
This project focuses on finding ways to shape a commercial platform for Norwegian shipping with competitive and logistically solid transport and management solutions. Many factors point to the need for better fleet coordination, positioning, routing and scheduling for wiser fleet usage. It is recognized that companies need an improved ability to utilize information in the market, and to identify opportunities and competitive threats as they arise.


Maritime IT
The goal of this study is to promote the strong growth of Norwegian deliveries of maritime-focused IT solutions for use onboard ships. Steering and surveillance systems, as well as business and administration solutions, are singled out as valuable future growth areas. The key will be to focus on the international market, for customers and businesses both large and small.


The MARUT studies are the crucial first step for launching real-world innovations in the sector. "The Research Council [of Norway] has created an opening for industry to apply for funding on these projects - and many are moving forward," said Richard Horgen of DNV, who worked on the EUROFEEDER report.


In addition to MARUT, there are a couple of other significant marine industry research programmes and institutes worth mentioning. MARINTEK (the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute) is a part of the influential research foundation SINTEF, and it delivers marine technology research and development services to public and private sector clients. MARINTEK is home to a major laboratory research facility that includes an ocean basin, ship model tanks, cavitation tunnels, machinery labs and a marine structures laboratory.


The Research Council of Norway's MAROFF (Maritime Offshore) programme, active since 2002, has contributed to sector growth through research into modularizing and new design and build techniques, improving production, innovating in ship transport of gas, and increasing the industry's ability to take advantage of IT and globalization.


Perhaps inevitably, MAROFF, MARINTEK and MARUT overlap with common goals, but the different programmes and institutes have a policy of coordinated support for each other, and consider themselves to be partners working towards the mutual aim of growing the maritime industries.


New Business with Roots in Research
Marine Cybernetics AS is a cutting-edge company which was spun off from NTNU (the Norwegian University of Science and Technology) in December 2002. The firm's expertise in the testing and validation of marine control systems came directly out of the national commitment to marine industry research and development.


The company's main product is the CyberSea Simulator - a unique tool for hardware-in-loop (HIL) safety and performance testing of feedback control systems. This technology is used to detect errors and incorrect configuration parameters before they can become serious incidents. The firm cites the prime advantages of using HIL testing as leading to shorter sea trials and commissioning time, and improved tuning and configuration of the control system. The simulator can provide service for offshore, cruise, ferry, navy ships and other advanced vessels.


From Theory to Real-World Improvements
Throughout the Norwegian shipping industry, years of study and research are being applied to meet today's challenges. For example, one of the leading actors in the sector, Det Norsk Veritas (DNV), is currently building on expertise with membrane containment systems to deal with the destructive effect of cargo sloshing in LNG tanks. Sloshing in partially filled tanks leads to fatigue and high load stress on the containment system, hull structure and pump tower. This research holds the promise of safer LNG transport and longer vessel life.


Another area of great potential being explored at DNV is the use of fuel cells on vessels. The company is a major partner in the FellowShip programme, which is helping to create a future driven by cleaner, more efficient onboard power sources - such as hydrogen. DNV is working cooperatively on this project with other major actors in the shipping industry - Aker Kværner, Eidsvik, MTU, Vik-Sandvik, Wallenius and Wärtsilä.

Private-Public Partnerships in Practice  
As part of Norway's long-standing tradition of cooperation to create practical and economically feasible solutions for the shipping industry, the renowned company Rolls-Royce Marine has combined with NTNU and MARINTEK to establish a University Technology Centre (UTC) in Trondheim. "NTNU and MARINTEK have worldwide reputations for their research in the motion of ships and structures at sea, so we are delighted to be involved with them," said Dr. Mike Howse of Rolls-Royce at the centre's opening in May 2005.


The new centre will focus on ship dynamics and propulsor performance at sea. A leading example of the results of this kind of research is the recent Azipull propulsion system, which provides increased manoeuvrability of commercial vessels and opens the door to more flexible ship design. The Azipull system relies on steerable pod-like thrusters in a pulling configuration that creates many advantages, such as the ability to run at low noise and at very low vibration levels.



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A model test of a shuttle tanker offloading from a FPSO in MARINTEK's Ocean Basin Laboratory.

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