DISCOVER Magazine #7

Overcoming resistance

Published in category: Public Transport
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There’s no room in marine services for complacency. Margins are tight, schedules are strict, and competition is fierce. That’s why Damen Shipyards Group strives to pioneer new perspectives and solutions in the industry.

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Considering the sustainability of fuel sources, the ecological impact of fossil fuel combustion, and economic longevity in the shipping industry, Damen has long been an investor in ‘green’ innovation. This has led to investigations into the viability and potential applications of electrical, gas and diesel-electric hybrid propulsion.

Damen’s participation in EU-funded programmes such as JOULES – the Joint Operation for Ultra Low Emission Shipping – has given rise to such projections as a ferry service, 30 years in the Netherlands’ future, powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Since 2018, Damen’s partnership with Skoon has promoted the use of electric propulsion through an exchangeable battery system.

The adaptation of individual vessels, or of entire production processes, to alternative propulsion solutions is an expensive and complex balancing act involving multiple variables. A good starting point to tackling this problem is to identify areas appropriate for the application of Damen’s signature standardisation approach. One area of logistics that offers higher capacity for standardisation is public transportation, thanks to its relative predictability.

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The predictable nature of public transportation’s operation means engineers are better able to anticipate factors such as levels of stress, hours in motion and power output required, that all contribute to the performance demands on a vehicle’s engine. Damen’s work on ferry operations is a prime example of this kind of initiative. The regularity and repetition of ferry operations, working to a set route and schedule, allows a shipyard to tailor the propulsion exactly to the vessel’s operational profile. Engines and their power supplies can be designed specifically for vessels to follow a particular route or undertake a particular task, optimised for maximum efficiency in that function.

This still requires a tremendous amount of customisation per vessel, complicating and extending the production process. However, there remain parts of the construction process, such as the calculations made in determining certain aspects of a vessel, that are viable for standardisation. It’s difficult to predict the effect this can have on the cost of vessel construction, but changes like these can significantly lower the vessel’s operating expense over its lifetime.

Damen knows ferries – and not just from a shipbuilding point of view. Given its years of experience and the outstanding collective knowledge of its workforce, Damen is emerging as an integrator in the sphere. As an advisor, Damen has consulted on logistics initiatives for BC Ferries in Canada. Besides providing insight into vessel construction, this role also involves analysing considerations such as civic regulations and power sources as well as helping to select the right equipment and translating the operational profile of the vessel into a match.
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As part of its continuing investment into electrified vessels, Damen is constructing electric ferries of all sizes as part of its line of E-Cross Ferries. Damen provides support throughout the entire development process, on all specifications, from passenger-only ferries to those able to carry vehicles. You’ll be able to read more information about Damen’s E-Cross ferries initiative in the forthcoming Damen #7 magazine out in May.

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