Software could enhance rescue vessel design

A UK developed computer model could help marine engineers optimise the design of fast-ships to cope with freak weather conditions.

A computer model developed by researchers at Leeds University could help radically improve the design and performance of search and rescue boats, and other so-called fast ships.

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The software could be used to optimise the design of rescue vessels and other “fast-ships”. Credit: RNLI

These vessels, which frequently travel at up to 23-30 knots, are particularly vulnerable to waves that amplify suddenly due to local weather and sea conditions. Each year around 100 such ships worldwide are lost or damaged in heavy seas, with around 2,500 casualties in 2013.

Developed with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the new model produces highly accurate simulations of exactly how sea waves can affect these vessels, and could, it is claimed, be built into design tools to enable them to better able to withstand the effects of rough seas.

Dr Anna Kalogirou, who worked on the project, said: “We have managed to develop a simulation tool that uses sophisticated mathematical methods and produces fast and accurate simulations of linear wave-ship interactions. Our tool can also provide measurements in terms of wave amplitudes around ships, as well as pressures on ships’ surfaces.”

The model has been validated through laboratory experiments on a man-made freak or rogue wave (the so-called ‘soliton splash’) using test tanks. A comparison with wave and ship motion, for a ship moored on two anchors, has been set up in a small test tank, which is also used for public demonstrations.

The next step is to extend the model to produce a tool that can be used by ship designers and maritime engineers.