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Marine technology frontrunners

It seemed a fitting nod to Norway’s maritime history: one of the first ships ever to be tested in the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute’s (MARINTEK) Ship Model Basin was a model of the Viking Gokstad ship, from 970. That...

Hands-on experiments, in some of the most advanced ship testing facilities on the planet, coupled with practical experience and world-class computational modelling, place Norway among the world’s leaders in developing innovative approaches to ship design and handling, and solving the environmental and technical challenges that arise at sea.

The Norwegian government has put a premium on funding maritime research through research programmes such as MARUT, which is a large cooperative effort between the government and industry initiated in 2004 by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. MARUT serves as an umbrella organization to coordinate research efforts funded through the Research Council of Norway’s MAROFF programme, along with Innovation Norway’s Maritime Development programme. Industry also contributes to the groundswell of research overall by financing efforts through the country’s universities, as well as research institutes such as MARINTEK.

There’s good reason for this broad base of support. Dr. Mike Howse, Rolls-Royce director of engineering and technology, put it this way when he opened a Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and MARINTEK in May 2005. “You are the best in the world in marine technology,” he told the crowd at the opening ceremony. “There are really good people here to carry out the research.”

Little Tiny Bubbles & Big Tanks

As head of the Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre at NTNU, Sverre Steen is preoccupied with tiny little bubbles. These are no ordinary bubbles, however: they’re bubbles of low pressure that form around parts of a spinning propeller’s blade, which literally implode with a force sufficient to damage the blade. Steen, who is also a professor at NTNU’s Faculty of Engineering Science and Technology, Department of Marine Technology, is also looking at what happens to propellers when rough seas toss ships up and down, exposing propellers to the air. These stresses and strains can harm propellers, but more often they’re the source of great inefficiencies in operating ships – inefficiencies that Steen’s sponsor, Rolls-Royce, is hoping he and other researchers can curb.

Steen’s work is made easier by the Ship and Ocean Laboratory facilities at MARINTEK, the marine research arm of SINTEF, Scandinavia’s largest independent research institution. MARINTEK is also a cooperator in the UTC, which is properly called the “Performance in a Seaway” UTC. The lab’s world-class facilities are comprised of a 280-metre long towing tank, a 50- by 80-metre ocean basin with a depth adjustable to 10 metres, a cavitation tunnel and a sloshing tank. These tools allow scientists and engineers to build scale models to test their ideas, and expand on the predictions and simulations that computer models can offer.

MARINTEK’s expertise and cooperative projects extend throughout the maritime shipping and logistics chain. Among its dozens of projects, the group is working with Farstad Shipping to develop an offshore simulation centre in Ålesund, on the development of gas-driven fuel engines for LNG carriers in cooperation with Rolls-Royce Marine and Wärtsilä, and on a project with ExxonMobil to reduce the problems posed by the sloshing of LNG in membrane tanks.

“Our testing facilities give us a great opportunity to get close to our customers, pinpoint areas for improvement, and propose projects,” Egil Rensvik, MARINTEK special advisor, said in a recent Nor-Shipping newsletter.

Funding the Future

Ask Sigurd Falch, head of the Research Council of Norway’s MAROFF programme, why it’s so important for the Norwegian government to support research and he’s got a ready answer. “One of the reasons that Norway is so strong in this sector is that we have a well-established research community,” he said. “You can attract good people and you can educate good people, but you have to have good research at the universities where you are educating these people.”

MAROFF, which stands for Maritime Activities and Offshore Operations, has as its goal the support of innovative industry-related research projects, with roughly NOK 64 million handed out to 13 projects in the last round of financing in May 2006. The overall budget for MAROFF for 2007 is proposed at NOK 90 million, Falch said.

Just what kind of work does MAROFF support? DNV Industry in Høvik outside Oslo, received funding to develop the use of an adhesive polymer film in place of anti-fouling paint, while AKVAsmart of Bryne was funded to develop and implement a process control system for the aquaculture industry. SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture was funded to develop the optimization of bottom trawl gear in terms of energy consumption, while a new international training and pre-simulation concept targeted to Arctic marine operations will be developed by the Ship Manoeuvring Simulator Centre of Trondheim.

Marine pollution is also a focus. The development of technologies to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ships may see a boost, if a recommendation to target NOK 20 million of MAROFF’s 2007 budget and NOK 10 million of Innovation Norway’s budget is approved. Worldwide, ships have generally fallen outside of traditional legislation to control air pollution, with the consequence that ship-related emissions have exceeded those from land-based sources. But NOx contributes to acid deposition, which can harm trees and fish, as well as overfertilization of the seas, which promotes harmful algae blooms.

MAROFF is a part of a larger cooperative effort called MARUT, which is overseen by a governing council composed of top leaders from industry and academia, including Karl Erik Kjelstad, president and CEO of Aker Yards; Oddbjørn Eliassen, president of commercial operations for Rolls-Royce Marine; and Tor Svendsen, the chief operating officer of Det Norske Veritas (DNV). MARUT’s governing council helps set overall direction for different funding efforts, including MAROFF and research funded through Innovation Norway.

Protecting the Environment

Norway’s shipping industry has also worked hard to push for environmentally friendly innovations. Five new LNG-driven ferries, designed by LMG Marin of Bergen and built by Aker Yards will begin operating on Norwegian fjords in 2007. The ships will emit 25 percent less CO2 and 83 percent less oxides of nitrogen than conventionally powered diesel ferries, and are free of sulphur and particle emissions.

Shipping carries more than 90 percent of the world’s trade – but it can also carry unwanted hitchhikers in ship water ballast. Invasive species carried by ships have the potential to devastate fisheries and harm tourism, as has happened in the Black Sea with the accidental introduction of a jellyfish that destroyed the anchovy fishery. A number of Norwegian companies have worked to develop cutting-edge technology to treat ballast water to eliminate unwanted organisms, including OceanSaver of Høvik and Knutsen OAS Shipping of Haugesund.

DNV was founded in 1864 as a ship classification society, but has expanded its expertise to cover identification, assessment and consultation on managing risk. What most people don’t realize is that DNV is a major strategic research player, spending nearly NOK 100 million per year on developing new knowledge and facilitating the introduction of novel, innovative transport designs, says Per Olaf Brett, DNV Research project director.

DNV is currently working in three broad areas of marine transport research: safe transport, effective transport and green transport. For example, DNV has worked with a consortium of companies under the umbrella of the Research Council of Norway to develop ways to use a ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) to identify ships potentially at risk of causing oil spills or accidents in fragile northern areas.

Another DNV project has been called LOGBASED, for logistics-based design. The goal of the project has been to develop a new kind of ship design methodology that allows a ship to be tailored to a specific trade route. In a blend of the managerial, engineering and commercial worlds, LOGBASED has helped develop methods for identifying and implementing logistic requirements and uncertainty in ship design, as well as improving our understanding of risk identification, evaluation and mitigation in operations of logistic systems.These methods also result in an overall improvement in design approach, Brett said.

Brett says that DNV always pairs with industry in conducting its research, as a way to understand business demands and enable DNV to service businesses of the future. “We follow the real problems and challenges of the world,” he said. “We go with the problems and the flow. We try to be dynamic and fluid in the sense of where the world is taking us, we want to be a part of it.”

Norwegian shipping R&D achievements include the introduction of environmentally friendly LNG-driven ferries. Bergensfjord is a LNG-powered car- and passenger ferry that was delivered by Aker Yards, Søviknes in November 2006, and is the first in a series of five ferries to be delivered to Norway’s Fjord1 Nordvestlandske.
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