SHIPMATES Aims to Raise Ship Repair Efficiency

Friday, September 17, 2004
Shipyards used to repair and convert existing vessels are set to become more efficient and environmentally friendly with the help of a grant of E2,151,000 from the EU¡¦s Framework Program. SHIPMATES (SHIPrepair to Maintain Transport which is Environmentally Sustainable) is a three year project to provide a blueprint for a technologically advanced and environmentally friendly ship repair/conversion yards, with a target of a 20 percent productivity improvement over today¡¦s European yards. ¡§As an activity, repair and conversion has more of the characteristics of a service industry than manufacturing¡¨, says project coordinator Karl Ward, of the Shipbuilders & Ship Repairers Association. ¡§Relative to shipbuilding, it is high volume work with a rapid turnaround and is highly unpredictable. The driving requirement in repair and conversion yards is for new technologies to be applied to meet the need for yards to work more efficiently on small quantity, frequently changed activities.

For example, welding robots at their current stage of development cannot be used in repair yards because they are too inflexible in their application.

For repair and conversion yards, it would be necessary to radically modify the robots and the operating software. But ultimately it may be more relevant to develop the use of adhesives for joining metal-to-metal and metal to composites in smaller repair jobs as an alternative to welding¡¨.

The project is designed to provide a clear understanding of best practice in the ship repair sector and to map and to simulate the range of repair and conversion yard activities ¡V with the exception of painting and coating range of activities. This will be achieved through four Work Packages that will run simultaneously:

„h Improving the steel cutting and joining processes relevant to repair yards

„h Advancing the processes of repair and replacement of cabling and pipework

„h Establishing a controlled process for converting/retrofitting ships to make operation more environmentally friendly

„h Exploring ship breaking and recycling as an alternative market

¡§The SHIPMATES project is important because it is driven by the industry, with a target of 20% productivity improvement within the participating shipyards¡¨, says Cliff Funnell, FP6UK National Contact Point for Surface Transport (Maritime). However, with an estimated cost of E4,302,000, it may not have been possible to go ahead without the 50% grant from the Framework Programme.

The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free, easy to access, information on the E19bn of funding available to support internationally collaborative R&D should log on to http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk or call central telephone support of 0870 600 6080¡¨.

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