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Composite construction milestone reached

Progress towards sustainable composite construction for large ships has taken a big step forward with the assembly and unveiling of a full scale composite ship's hull section at Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding’ (DSNS) in Vlissingen-East.

The RAMSSES project (Realisation and Demonstration of Advanced Material Solutions for Sustainable and Efficient Ships) aims to scale up composite technology and capacity to design, produce and market composite vessels up to 85 metres long in full compliance with Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and class regulations. The current regulations only cover vessels up to 500 tonnes – approximately 25 metres in length.

In the absence of approved guidelines for large vessels, the RAMSSES project looks to validate the production process of large composite structures with economic improvement and key performance indicators for fire-resistance, impact resistance and structural robustness. The project work has already pioneered the capability to infuse thick laminates up to six metres in height and has shown that composite construction is indeed possible at a steel yard.

There are numerous benefits to composite shipbuilding, not the least of which is the contribution composites make towards greater maritime efficiency and sustainability. A composite vessel such as the one the RAMSSES partners are working towards would weigh up to 40% less than a steel equivalent; resulting in a considerable reduction in both fuel consumption and emissions. A composite vessel would also offer further reductions in global warming potential, aerosol formation potential, eutrophication potential, acidification potential and fuel consumption by up to 25%.

“The work we are doing here is important for the future of shipping. Sustainability is a major focus in industry right now and shipbuilding is no exception,” says Marcel Elenbaas, senior engineer at Research & Technology Support DSNS. “The use of composites for larger ships has significant consequences for the entire design of the ship. If it is lighter, a vessel uses less fuel and produces lower emissions. The vessel also requires smaller engines, which means more space for additional systems, making for a more versatile platform. And of course, composites require considerably less maintenance than a steel vessel. With RAMSSES we have the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness and viability of large-scale composite shipbuilding.”

The RAMSSES project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Other demonstrators in the RAMSSES project include innovative components and modular lightweight systems, maritime equipment, the application of high performance steels in load carrying hull structures, the integration of composite materials in various structures, as well as solutions for global repair.

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