Safe at sea

After successful trials on HMS Marlborough in 2005, QinetiQ’s Onboard Risk Performance Hazard Evaluation system, ORPHEUS is now undergoing year-long trials on three Royal Navy Type 23 frigates.


After successful trials on HMS Marlborough in 2005, QinetiQ’s Onboard Risk Performance Hazard Evaluation system, ORPHEUS is now undergoing year-long trials on three Royal Navy Type 23 frigates – HMS Northumberland, HMS Westminster and HMS Montrose.


QinetiQ said in a statement that ORPHEUS is a dedicated and flexible operator guidance system that provides concise information on how a ship will perform in a variety of bad weather scenarios. Developed at QinetiQ’s MarineTechnologyPark at Haslar, the system took just three years to develop. It displays measured motions, predictions of motions at alternative speeds and heading combinations alongside operating limits.


MS Windows-based, the system combines real-time information with a database of previously generated data which, when selected, is plotted to a computer screen in a simple-to-use format.


The primary advantage of ORPHEUS is that it provides bridge staff with the means to quantify the risk of operating a ship in extreme weather. But it also allows officers to increase the operational envelope or improve operational safety of shipboard tasks that are normally hampered or even postponed by the presence of heavy weather.


Ian Prescott, Managing Director of QinetiQ’s Sea Division,says: “Up until now, Royal Naval guidance on how to operate ships in inclement conditions has been achieved through general seamanship lectures during navigational training or ‘on the job’ experience. Computer guidance tools have not routinely been used and the little information that is available tends to be paper charts and graphs that have limited usefulness in heavy weather situations.”


When first developed in collaboration with the UK Ministry of Defence Sea Technology Group (STG), it was the Royal Naval bridge officer that QinetiQ had in mind. However, the system is equally pertinent to ships operating commercial trades, especially Floating Production, Storage Offshore vessels and other specialist vessels that regularly carry aircraft or are engaged in towing operations. ORPHEUS provides the information required to undertake safe aircraft operations, towed array/towed body deployment, small boat operations and, in the case of military vessels, weapons firing. In non-combat scenarios the system would aid operators to maximise crew comfort and crew effectiveness.

Specifically, for aircraft operations this will provide the ability to maximise the launch and recovery envelope of embarked aviation assets in all sea states and ensure the safety of both aircraft and personnel while operating on deck in adverse conditions.