Improved safety at sea for cruise ship passengers and crews will be the outcome of a research and development project, funded with the help of over €1.7m (euros) from the EU’s Framework Programme.
SEA-AHED (Simulation environment and advisory system for on-board help, and estimation of manoeuvring performance during design) was a 39-month project to produce a technology system that can predict the course of cruise ships within 10 to 20 metres - far more accurately than anything currently available commercially.
Today’s super-cruisers have the capacity to carry over 4,000 people so any collision has the potential to produce unprecedented carnage. SEA-AHED can help to significantly reduce the risk of this happening and can also contribute directly to safety through on-board training. It is capable of providing situational awareness and predicting the behaviour of the vessel in situations where some machinery fails. Safety of both the passengers and the ship makes it essential that the pilot be given the best possible information regarding the consequences of any manoeuvring actions. It also demands that he be automatically alerted with all speed in case of looming hazards.
The system takes account of wind speed, wind direction, water depth, currents, actual rudder angles, demanded rudder angles, thruster performances, etc. and consider the non-linear and time-varying manoeuvring characteristics of the vessel. It also exploits very recent advances in aerospace and robotics applications using a technique called the Julier-Ulhmann filter.
Current systems generally rely on constant rate models that do not provide the accuracy necessary for safe operation and the project consortium claim that, for the non-linear models under consideration, SEA-AHED far outperforms the industry standard extended Kalman Filter. “Safety has to be the number one priority for cruise ships with the continually growing number of passengers”, says Cliff Funnell Cliff Funnell, FP6UK National Contact Point for Surface Transport (Maritime). “SEA-AHED is an excellent example of the type of project Framework Funding is provided for and, as this contributed 50 per cent of the total €3.4 m (euros) project cost, it seems fair to assume that without it the project would not have been viable.
“The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free, easy to access, information on the €19bn of funding available to support internationally collaborative R&D should log on to http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080.”
Project partners are predicting that SEA-AHED will create the demand for at least two more vessels - expected to secure around 2,300 jobs – as well as bringing considerable commercial benefits throughout the industry. This includes:
The possibilities opened up by research on the SEA-AHED project may also be extended to bulk carriers, tankers, container ships, Roll On-Roll Off and fast ferries by lending itself towards the development of intelligent cruise control, and automatic docking for these large vessels.
Other possibilities for future research include prediction and obstacle avoidance for commercial fixed wing aircraft, intelligent cruise control for cars, and automated underwater vehicles.
Dave Sanders | alfa
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