The unsinkable ship: Permanent installations

Stena Line open innovation challenge

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Stena Line are seeking novel approaches to outfit their freight and passenger ships with permanent, lightweight buoyancy features that will limit the amount of sea water that can ingress into the ship when there is a hull breach, rendering the ship essentially unsinkable.

What's the challenge?

The companies comprising the Swedish-based Stena Sphere represent the one of the largest private shipping groups in the world. We are seeking solutions that can be applied to cargo and passenger ships that travel in all of the world’s oceans.

Ships are today are designed with watertight subdivided compartments in order to remain stable and buoyant in case of a multi compartment hull breach. These designs restrict the use of larger cargo spaces. If water ingress could be avoided or at least limited in these compartments, ships would be able carry more cargo. 

These compartments typically range in volume from 200-1000 m3, and are often dry and empty compartments. Our objective is to limit water ingress into individual compartments in case of hull breach by reducing permeability using permanent buoyancy elements.

Do you have the solution?

Stena is interested in solutions that go beyond conventional methods used in the marine industry today to provide permanent or temporary buoyancy in the event of a hull breach.  

For example, Stena would consider the use of rigid foams, either to fill an entire compartment, or in blocks, or using other design features that do not restrict valuable cargo space.  Another approach considered is the use of multiple large air bladders that could be permanently or temporarily inflated, and that would resist puncture from the hull breach itself.

Some practical considerations for retrofitting existing vessels include:

  • Durable material with long lifetime (typically 20-40 years), preferably non-combustible
  • Foam or other structures must be able to withstand high water pressures (typically 10m water pillar)
  • If permanent foams are proposed, they would ideally be made of a low density (less than 0.1 g/cm3), completely closed cell, and non-water-absorbing material

Evaluation criteria

Technical viability - Solutions proposed must be based on sound scientific principles and have laboratory or pilot scale data that demonstrate efficacy. The proposed solution should be able to provide sufficient buoyance in the case of the breach of multiple compartments simultaneously.

Scale-up potential - Solutions proposed must have a clear pathway to be applied on commercial ships. Solutions already practiced in marine markets have higher value. The ideal partner would be able to lead the design of full-scale systems, with expertise in foam chemistry, structural mechanics, and installation techniques.

Costs - lower installation and maintenance costs have higher value.

Ownership - Solutions covered by patents have higher value. At a minimum, proposed solutions must not be prohibited by other patents in the field.

Killer issues - Solutions will not be considered if, in Stena’s opinion:

  • Installation and maintenance costs are prohibitive for broad application (target for installation cost is below 100,000 Euros per ship)
  • Proposals lack sufficient supporting laboratory or pilot scale data
  • Solutions don’t adhere to global maritime environmental or safety regulations

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