By Oscar Michel, Masters in Journalism, DCU.

A new European research project called FIBRESHIP seeks to revolutionise the shipbuilding sector. Steel will be replaced by composite materials for the construction of larger ships.

From now, the construction of light commercial vessels, passenger and leisure transport and oceanographic vessels more than 50 meters in length using fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composite materials.

It is one of the largest innovation projects funded by the EU with a budget of €11 million, of which €9 million is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme.

Using composite materials can be revolutionise the ship industry because it can reduce up to 30% in the weight of ships, a decrease in fuel consumption of between 10% and 15% for steel structures, an increase in recycling ratio from the current 34% for steel structures to 75%, a substantial reduction of greenhouse gases, less noise pollution and an increase in cargo capacity by roughly 12%

“The Irish ocean economy is foreseen to benefit directly from the innovations expected from FIBRESHIP in the direction of the realisation of a lightweight composite large-length ship, with expected impacts on ship fuel economy, cargo and passenger capacity and environmental footprint. The positive impact on other established (e.g. marine manufacturing-engineering-construction) and emerging (e.g. marine renewable energy) industries is also expected to be significant further down the line” said Dr. Loannis Manolakis, Research Fellow in Composite Materials and Icomp Research Coordinator.

18 internationale entities from 11 countries including Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania and Spain participated to the project. Along with two experts in composites elements Dr. Anthony Comer (UL lead Principal Investigator) and Dr. Loannis Manolakis  (UL co-Investigator and Project Manager).

Most of the pleasure boats, sailboats, ferries, patrol boats and rescue ships under 50 meters are manufactured with this special material. This project aims to have the boats above 50 meters manufactured with the same materials instead of classic steal.

“Europe’s leadership position in the world shipbuilding industry in value terms is based on its commitment to research, technology innovation and the delivery of high value-added products. In fact, Europe continues to classify the largest proportion of all newly constructed civilian and merchant ships in the world. FIBRESHIP stands out as the first initiative to comprehensively introduce FRP in the construction of larger vessels” said Dr. Anthony Comer, lecturer at the School of Engineering at University of Limerick.

Dr Terry McGrail, IComp Director noted: “This is a significant success for IComp and UL, and a great opportunity to transfer composites expertise and know-how  developed at high technology readiness level in UL and IComp in particular to new sectors such as shipbuilding.”

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