Maritime transport and shipbuilding, including activities in the offshore sector, are critical parts of Europe's economy, industry and commerce, trade and tourism. The shipbuilding industry in Europe as a whole (EU, including Poland and Norway) is in third place, behind Japan and Korea, in the world league of tonnage built and equalled Japan in first place as far as order book is concerned (1998 data, see Maritime Industry Forum, R&D ination Group, April 1999). Note that Europe's shipbuilding is world leading in high-tech and complex ship constructions, particularly passenger ships (cruisers and ferries), containerships, LNG and LPG tankers, etc.
Having said this, over the past couple of decades shipbuilding in Europe has seen dramatic declines in orders, closures of yards and the consequent loss of skilled workers. Employment in European shipbuilding and repair is substantial, but declining. Increasing competition from the Far East still threaten many European yards who can only rely on the use of critical and advanced technologies against cheap labour costs to remain competitive.
As such it is crucial to keep Europe's competitive edge against word-wide competition, one of the main challenges to be addressed by the European Maritime Industries is to follow-up the successful pattern introduced by other major European industries, particularly the aerospace industry, and to effectively herein integrate information technologies into the ship's life cycle process.
Consolidation, mutual co-operation and rationalised effort to utilise technologies to their greatest effect can only strengthen European shipbuilding industry. This project focuses upon integrating current effort dispersed throughout Europe to provide a standardised platform upon which a variety of maritime industries can function.
The resulting platform is expected to provide short and medium term benefit to European ship operators, regulatory bodies and shipbuilders and longer term benefits to the maritime industry as a whole as it embeds high technology in the very fabric of designing, building and operating the ships of the future.
In particular, the project aim is to integrate and simulate critical technologies of ship systems to ensure safe and reliable transportation of goods and people. Critical technologies addressing development of areas such as powering and propulsion systems, outfitting, internal arrangement, systems configuration, hull form design, hydromechanics and structural analyses are already receiving attention from across the spectrum of the maritime industry. Due attention is being paid and a concerted effort expended in the conception and development of an integrated platform to allow for systematic integration, management and testing of the various technologies to ensure overall design optimisation and product performance, while addressing all the life phases of the ship including design, production, operation and disposal.
To achieve its aim VRSHIPS-ROPAX employs state of the art methods from various research areas to conduct the work. These include database meddler architecture, knowledge sharing initiatives, collaborative design and virtual design environments. This has required the development of database systems, coordination and communication mechanisms and applications of standards such as STEP and XML to a large scale engineering project. VRSHIPS-ROPAX also addresses the need to ensure ship safety, starting at an early stage in the design process. It does this by integrating design and simulation tools, which individually already have a certain predictive power into a much more potent whole, which, in addition, enables the visualisation of the consequences of design decisions. Though the virtual platform is generic the focus of the ship platform is a ROPAX, as awareness of safety problems in this area is at a high level after the Estonia and Herald of Free Enterprise tragedies.
The VRSHIPS-ROPAX project relates directly to two of the main points reflected in the EU's Council Resolution of 22nd December 1994 on the safety of roll-on/roll-off passenger ferries. It enables intact and damage stability requirements to be more easily met by simulating a ship in various sea conditions, and it allows the simultaneous design of optimum evacuation
The 37 partners who carry out this project bring together a unique range of expertise, experience, tools, material, knowledge and exploitation potential.
Understanding of the wide-ranging and central role of the project can be readily realised by reference to the Thematic Network SAFER EURORO Cluster (Section 10.3) and the direct links with the Maritime Industry's R&D Masterplan explained therein.
VRSHIPS-ROPAX is the integrative platform that 'pools' together advanced technological tools to assess performance of a ship system from first principles and thus help amass experiential information and insight. It will provide not only a platform of ship system critical technologies but also a generic virtual platform for any ship type.
The project will be carried out in 9 main workpackages (WP), with WP6 consisting of 8 substantial tasks. WP1 will focus upon delivering the integration medium through which simulation tools and other WPs will communicate. WP2 will develop required common models of the ship and its external environment while WP3 will provide the virtual platform to allow real time interactions. WP4 is concerned with consistency management and conflict resolution between the various simulation tools and WP5 the capture of pertinent knowledge for life-phase process modelling and cover the three life-phases of design, production and operation. WP6 addresses the modification of the simulation tools to communicate with the integrated platform and addresses early design tools, general arrangement, propulsion plant, sub-systems and the environment.
A novel ship design, ROPAX, is created and used as the basis to test the integrated platform in WP7. WP8 concentrates upon analysing and optimising the overall performance of the virtual ship within the integrated platform while WP9 focuses upon exploiting the project results. Thus the project will deliver:
- An integrated virtual platform prototype system.
- Software simulation tools and virtual models of the ship system.
- An integrative architecture for critical ship technologies.
- A virtual platform for real time and a ship platform for physical performance evaluation.
The project will be managed by a steering committee that will decide all high-level project management issues including the overall management of the project and technical, financial, dissemination, planning and control matters. A technical committee will be for