DISCOVER Magazine #7

Innovative spirit – The EU’s contribution to Damen’s RD&I, Part I

Published in category: Innovation

Image above: Damen hybrid RoPax ferry for BC Ferries

European flag Funded by the the Horizon 2020
Framework Programme of the European Union

The aim of Damen’s online articles is to give readers an insight into the various aspects of our activities. Some topics, however, are just too broad in scope to cover in one article. That’s why we have decided to cover the subject of Damen’s RD&I activities in European Union-funded innovation programmes in three separate articles. Seven different research projects will be covered, touching on subjects such as energy efficiency, design optimisation and sustainable ships.

Innovation: it’s in the blood

Damen’s long tradition of innovation is well known. In fact, the company’s historical timeline is dotted with ground-breaking concepts and products. The standardised shipbuilding concept – introduced by Kommer Damen in 1969 – and the SEA Axe Hull are just two successful examples.

While Damen’s innovation has traditionally originated from the company’s sizeable in-house R&D department , in recent years its strategy has undergone a critical shift that has resulted in a more outward looking approach.

This evolution has been accompanied by two additional changes. Firstly, as the relevance of innovation grows within the maritime industry, Damen is becoming increasingly involved in innovation projects with clients and suppliers, often with partners from outside the maritime industry. Breaking with traditional business values even further, some innovation projects have also been carried out in collaboration with competitors.

The European Union’s input

The second change also relates to cooperation, but this time with the European Union (EU) acting as the key contributor and facilitator. This takes considerable investment; the current Horizon 2020 programme represents EU funding of approximately €80 billion. If Members of the European Parliament and EU Member States agree to the future proposal, this figure is set to increase to €100 billion in the next programme, called Horizon Europe.

The aims of these EU-funded innovation programmes are substantial. Zero-emission transport, zero accidents, zero loss of life and zero pollution; working from eco-friendly shipyards and production sites and cleaner oceans. And, thinking digitally, they also work to release the full potential of connectivity and automation.

How is Damen involved with these EU innovation programmes?

“We see that our RD&I ambitions are often in line with the ambitions of the EU,” says Peter van Terwisga, Damen R&D Director. “We also want to work towards a more sustainable and efficient transport sector. And, as shipbuilder and technology provider, we have an enormous role – and responsibility – towards smart, green and integrated transport.”

At the heart of the EU in Brussels, Damen has its own public affairs office run by Harriet Slager: “Together with SEA Europe, our European Trade Association,” she says. “We actively participate in future RD&I negotiations to ensure that a considerable part of the budget will be spent on maritime transport. At the same time, our Damen R&D colleagues are actively engaged in the development of long-term strategic research and innovation agendas together with other European maritime stakeholders in the Waterborne Technology Platform.”

Project Name: BESST, Breakthrough in European Ship and Shipbuilding Technologies

Main focus: to achieve a breakthrough in competitiveness, environmentally friendliness and safety of EU-built ships.

Project Duration: 1 Sept 2009 until 28 Feb 2013

With eight leading EU shipyards (including Damen) and 20 research institutes and universities, five classification societies and 31 ship equipment suppliers (17 of them SME) participating, BESST was a very large initiative where a huge number of stakeholders collaborated to achieve a shared vision.

What was Damen’s contribution?

Damen worked on the development of a life cycle performance assessment software tool. This tool is used to discuss with customers how innovation can contribute to their operational strategy.  It is also the basis for the Damen E3 environmental quality mark (Environmentally friendly, Efficient in operations, Economically viable).

In terms of physical products, the risk-based design knowledge on composite applications in ship-design that Damen gained from the BESST programme eventually contributed to the development of the composite Damen Waterbus currently being operated in the city of Antwerp. BESST was also used to evaluate hybrid propulsion systems on, for example, hybrid tugs and hybrid ocean going patrol vessels.

WBU 2407 Aqua Diamond

“For us, BESST turned out to be the first project in a series of projects with a similar focus. We were a following partner in the very large BESST consortium,” states Pieter Huyskens, head of R&D at Damen Commercial New Build, “but we stepped up our game in the JOULES project and took on a more leading role as Work Package leader for one of the biggest parts of the project.”


Project Name: JOULES, Joint Operation for Ultra Low Emission Shipping

Main focus: Energy efficiency and emission reduction technologies

Project Duration: 1 June 2013 – 31 May 2017

39 partners from 10 countries

Within the JOULES project, the European maritime industry took up the challenge to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping sector. In addition to eleven benchmark cases, so-called 2025 and 2050 concepts were developed and simulated to assess their environmental footprints.

Damen participated in various aspects of the JOULES project.

1. The Tug Application Case: Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) Tug 2810 HYBRID

ASD tugs traditionally have a fully mechanical propulsion system consisting of two diesel engines driving two azimuth thrusters. This configuration was chosen as the baseline concept for the JOULES project. The 2025 concept design that was selected for detailed analysis in the JOULES project is a further evolution of the recently commissioned ASD 2810 Hybrid – combining the benefits of electric propulsion at low power requirements with the benefits of high speed diesel engines during high power demands. By continuing development of the hybrid system within the JOULES project, further improvements such as a 20-30% reduction in fuel consumption are expected. For the 2050 concept, a fully electric tug was developed and assessed.

Watch the video about Damen ASD 2810 HYBRID 

2. The Urban Ferry Application Case

Damen’s benchmark case for urban ferry transport was the Waterbus operating between Rotterdam and Dordrecht. The 2025 concept was propelled by natural gas, and the fully electric 2050 concept utilised a hydrogen fuel cell.

Damen’s Electric Waterbus in Rotterdam

Damen Waterbus 2407

3. The Wind-Assisted Cargo Vessel Application Case

The third case handled by Damen was a wind-assisted cargo vessel with a regular cargo vessel as benchmark. Many sail types were evaluated; with the Flettner Rotor Sail design being selected as winning concept for this application.

JOULES has led to market development within Damen

The commercial successes below are a spin-off from the knowledge initiated in BESST and perfected with the design philosophy and tools from JOULES. Peter van Terwisga explains: “These EU funded research projects really help us to be better, greener, cleaner and safer in the future and to provide our clients with the best possible solutions.”

Tugs: Hybrid tugs have already been sold, and a second generation design has been developed using JOULES technology and design philosophy. Full electric tugs remain an ambition for the future.

Cargo vessel: Damen has developed the Flettner Rotor Cargo vessel; a bulk cargo transportation vessel with a 20% reduced fuel footprint.

Hybrid RoPax ferries:
In June 2017 Damen signed a contract for two hybrid RoPax ferries for Canadian ferry operator BC Ferries. The design allows for expansion to full electric at a later date.

Fully-electric ferries:
Damen is currently building two fully-electric ferries for a Canadian client.

Fully-electric Waterbuses: In July 2018, Damen signed a contract with Arriva Danmark for five fully-electric ferries, known as the Damen Ferry 2306 E3. For this design, Damen has incorporated technology already been proven in land-based public transportation; thus guaranteeing both reliability and cost-efficiency.

DFe2206_Hybrid Propulsion

Harriët Slager

Sr. Manager EU Government Affairs

Contact via LinkedIn

Pieter Huyskens

Manager Research & Development

Contact via LinkedIn

Peter van Terwisga

Director Group's Research

Contact via LinkedIn

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