DISCOVER Magazine #7

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

Published in category: Innovation
European flag Funded by the the Horizon 2020
Framework Programme of the European Union

In this third article about Damen’s input into European research programmes, two truly forward thinking projects are described. After concentrating on energy efficiency and innovative materials in the first two articles , this final chapter looks at the most recent (still ongoing) research programmes involving sustainable mining, and ‘value-added’ ships. No doubt about it – these EU-funded and facilitated projects are stimulating a collaborative atmosphere within the European maritime industry.

VAMOS logo

Project Name: ¡VAMOS! (Viable Alternative Mine Operations System) H2020 project

Main focus: Extraction of raw materials

Duration: 1 February 2015 – 31 January 2019

Background information

The EU depends heavily on raw materials from countries outside the EU. In order to reduce the EU’s reliance on raw material imports it invests in various new technologies such as underwater mining. Research will generate better access to strategically important minerals, or at least the knowledge thereof, create jobs in the material extraction sector and eventually may lead to more independence.

Estimates indicate that the value of unexploited European mineral resources at a depth of 500 – 1,000 metres is in the order of €100 billion. However, many of these deposits are submerged in unmined deposits which are below the water table.

The 16-partner ¡VAMOS! project is developing a remotely controlled, underwater mining vehicle prototype with associated launch and recovery equipment. This is a safe, clean and low impact automated solution for the extraction and pre-processing of ores found in ground layers below the standing water level – both in inland or in coastal waters. The project is constantly engaging with stakeholders to make sure that the technology developed is environmentally, economically and socially acceptable.

The Mining Vehicle just recovered from the bottom of the Lee Moor kaolin pit in UK

Major benefits of ¡VAMOS! over conventional inland mining:

  • Ultra-low volume of waste material required to be handled in order to extract equivalent tonnage of ore.
  • No cost of dewatering compared to a dry pit (with dry mining you have to remove and treat the ground water. With this new mining system the mine is filled with groundwater which you can use to your benefit).
  • No blasting noise, ground vibration, fumes or dust nuisance
  • No people at work in the mine
  • Lower energy requirements and CO2 emissions
  • ¡VAMOS! provides a chance to address rehabilitation problems that have been left behind at mining sites formerly mined with dry methods.

¡VAMOS! technology has evolved

Developing from its original concept into a system composed from many parts, ¡VAMOS! includes the following critical subsystems, which were completed in summer 2017:

  • Remote operated and submerged mining vehicle with cutter head and slurry pump,
  • Launch & recovery vessel with power distribution and control unit,
  • A slurry circuit system,
  • Processing & dewatering facilities,
  • Control cabin with Virtual Reality Human-Machine Interface,
  • Autonomous Underwater Vehicle for survey and spatial awareness,
  • Real-time grade control technology.

Proved in test cases

Working mainly at abandoned mining sites, ¡VAMOS! carries out underwater operations to access minerals which are hard to reach. To prove the operability of the ¡VAMOS! innovative technological approach, the system has successfully been deployed at two test sites: The Lee Moor kaolin open-pit site in Devon, UK and in an open-mine pit in Ireland, previously mined for barite.

During these trials, ¡VAMOS! extracted rocks varying in hardness and constitution. Operating parameters like machinery productivity, equipment wear, environmental impacts and social acceptance were assessed.

The field testing makes it possible to estimate the industrial viability of the ¡VAMOS! equipment and the market up-take possibilities. The test cases focus specifically on the circumstances under which the ¡VAMOS! technology outperforms conventional mining methods.

Expected impact

Fundamental to the ¡VAMOS! approach is the fact that the vast majority of the EU’s inland mineral deposits are in ground layers below the standing water level. Our technique will involve remote operation of underwater mining equipment without affecting the local groundwater levels.

The ¡VAMOS! technique will enable the re-opening of abandoned open pit mines, which are limited by stripping ratio. In other words, the ratio of waste material required to be handled in order to extract a specific amount of ore is low. ¡VAMOS! will result in a smaller environmental footprint compared to conventional mining.

The Launch & Recovery Vessel with floating slurry hose

For this project Damen provided the launch & recovery vessel and the components of the slurry circuit, both on the submerged mining vehicle and on shore. The technology developed in this project is applicable in abandoned mining sites as well as for deep sea mining, and hydraulic power dam maintenance.

A view in the Control Cabin where the cutting and pumping process is remotely operated

Some wear visible on the cutter head after working in hard rock at 55m depth

“Now being at the end stage of the ¡VAMOS! project, we have received a very positive response from the industry and other stakeholders. This may even lead to an extension of the lifetime of part of the prototype equipment into other projects. And triggering the market was exactly one of the goals of the EU,” says Frank Bosman, Manager RD&I for Damen’s Product Group Dredging.

NAVAIS logoProject Name: NAVAIS Project EU H2020

Main focus: New, Advanced and Value-Added Innovative Ships

Project Duration: June 1, 2018-2022

“The work of the NAVAIS programme is aligned with the Damen philosophy of shipbuilding,” begins Jorinus Kalis, Manager Development at Damen. “For many years, Damen has designed and built its vessels according to a standardised programme of shipbuilding that delivers proven vessels to its clients, with the fastest possible delivery times and at competitive prices. This experience positions us well to coordinate this project and we are pleased to play our part in supporting the European shipbuilding industry as well as in increasing sustainability in shipping.”

Project description

Worldwide competition is fierce, and in order to maintain world-leadership in complex, value-added and highly specialised vessels, European shipbuilders must develop tailor-made innovative concepts that are efficient to design and build. NAVAIS will develop a platform-based modular product family approach supported by the 3DEXPERIENCE® integrated business platform. This concept will increase efficiency in vessel design and flexibility in production networks. NAVAIS will specifically focus on passenger/road ferries and multi-use workboats integrating sustainability in the design of the ships. NAVAIS will support the transfer from an engineered-to-order business model to an assemble-to-order business model, which will allow shorter process lead-times, constant quality, reduced design and production costs and better integration of the SME supply chain, thereby increasing competitiveness of the European shipbuilding industry.

The project involves 16 partners from five EU and 1 associated countries, and includes maritime equipment suppliers, integrators and end-users. Damen is coordinating the project in close cooperation with Netherlands Maritime Technology.

By sharing components and production across a platform of vessels, higher efficiency in vessel design and flexibility in production networks is achieved. NAVAIS uses system engineering approaches to develop the principles, procedures and a re-use component library for modular design and production and will apply these to develop two platform-based product families: passenger/road ferries and multi-use workboats.

Multi-Use workboats
Multi-Use workboat

Product demos and the role of Damen

For each product family a demonstrator will be developed, validated and assessed on low impact environmental performance such as discharges to air and water, underwater radiated noise and cost benefit aspects. The demonstrator model will be a 400 passenger/120 car capacity E-ferry and a multi-use workboat equipped for aquaculture activities.

400 passenger/120 car capacity E-ferry

Multi-use workboat equipped for aquaculture activities

A major aspect of the platform-based modular approach is the change in value chain management. The current class approval procedure of engineered-to-order designs will be replaced by a procedure where pre-engineered product modules are approved by class, stored in a re-use library and applied in new vessel modular designs.

Damen input

“With our work in all sectors of the maritime industry, Damen has much to offer to these projects. At the same time, there is always room for improvement and further innovation – especially when it comes to developing vessel characteristics towards greater safety, comfort and environmental performance. These aspects benefit all stakeholders – within and outside our industry.”

Highlighting the significance of such European-wide collaborative projects – and referring to the wider impact of the numerous projects in this series of articles, Damen R&D Director Peter van Terwisga concludes: “The European research projects provide excellent opportunities to advance our research, development and innovation agenda in cooperation with all related stakeholders. This approach ensures that the developed solutions deliver sound business potential as well as a contribution to societal challenges.”


Harriët Slager

Sr. Manager EU Government Affairs

Contact via LinkedIn

Pieter Huyskens

Manager Research & Development

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Peter van Terwisga

Director Group's Research

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Frank Bosman

Manager RD&I Development at Damen Dredging Equipment

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