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Europe to build ships for future

Staff Writer |
A new European research project seeks to revolutionize the shipbuilding sector by replacing steel with composite materials for the construction of more efficient large length ships.

FIBRESHIP is an ambitious project that will allow for 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.

The project involves 18 international entities representing the European shipping and shipbuilding industry from 11 countries including Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania and Spain.

Dr Anthony Comer (UL lead Principal Investigator) and Dr Ioannis Manolakis (UL co-Investigator and Project Manager) from the School of Engineering and the Irish Composites Centre (IComp) at UL are the experts in the composites element on this project.

The project aims to drive the development and adoption of composites in the European shipbuilding industry.

It will create the knowledge and tools for the construction of large composite merchant ships, over 50 metres in length, both seagoing and for inland waterways, thus overcoming the challenges and technology gaps which are currently found in conventional shipbuilding.

At present, most of the pleasure boats and sailboats, ferries, patrol boats and rescue ships of less than 50 meters in length are already manufactured with FRP materials instead of the classic steel, but until now the use of such materials for vessels over 50 metres in length was limited to secondary structures and components.

Among the potential benefits of using composite materials can be the reduction of up to 30% in the weight of ships, a decrease in fuel consumption of between 10% and 15%, 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%.

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