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There is no shortage of ideas: »Technologies for Future Ships and Future Shipping« is the theme of the upcoming 10th HIPER Conference. Some of the highlights are shared by the organizer Volker Bertram
Research laboratories and advanced thinkers from industry (including such heavyweights as DNV GL, Dell and Wärtsilä) meet to offer a[ds_preview] sneak preview of the future of the maritime industries in Cortona, October 17–19.

Yes, we will see »cool« designs at HIPER, with multihulls in the lead. German shipyard Abeking & Rasmussen asks cheekily: »1, 2, 3 – how many hulls should a high-performance vessel have?« Or more generally, what shape is the ultimate hull? Some see the answer in CFD and hull optimization for realistic operational profiles including off-design conditions, of course in the Cloud (Numeca, CD-adapco). A Fraunhofer team thinks out of the box and goes one step further: adapting the hull locally using inflat­able attachments. Quite a few participants look to nature for inspiration. HSVA and Fraunhofer join forces on another idea, mimicking dolphin skin to delay flow separation. Bionic designs for antifouling coatings (Univ. Michigan, Hempel) or rudders (Univ. Southampton) appear. HIPER’s unconventional thinkers also challenge the traditional propeller. Which design will win out – squid, whale or bacteria flagella?

Others prefer the conventional unconventional. For resistance reduction, the limelight is on air lubrication, with many variations on the theme (TU Delft).

An intriguing contribution in the field comes from the Silverstream Technologies who report on full-scale trials for a Shell Shipping tanker. The next step is making air lubrication cheaper. Harwood Marine present a Japanese-Australian cooperation on an idea to reduce the energy required to get the bubbles under the ship.

Could heavy fuel oil be a thing of the past by 2030? There is a clear trend towards cleaner fuels. LNG is certainly on the rise and current gaps in the LNG infrastructure are being closed (Wärtsilä). Battery and fuel cell technology have progressed rapidly from research to industry applications (GE Power Conversion, TKMS). Hybrid ships which use electrical power in and near ports and switch to LNG for open ocean assages are already on the way. Hybrid propulsion concepts are easily combined with renewable energy concepts, such a wind assistance from kites, Flettner rotors or rigid sails (NTNU, Marintek, ENSTA Bretagne). Keppel Verolme looks at how the latest energy efficient (or even energy self-sufficient) office building designs can be applied to deckhouse designs.

Technologies such as 3D scanning, 3D printing, Augmented Reality and the Internet of Things will affect all industries including shipbuilding (SSI, Dell, TU Delft, NTNU). And with increasing cross-linking, supply industry, shipyards, shipping and ports will be brought even closer together, creating smart yards, smart ports and smart ships. At HIPER, the spotlight is, of course, on the smart ships – ships that can operate autonomously or manually (Sea Machines), or autonomous ships navigating in dense traffic situations such as in ports (TU Delft). Some start small, looking at firefighting or waste/oil spill recovery drones (QinetiQ, Univ. Genova). Other let their imagination soar. The Mayflower autonomous ship is set to attempt an Atlantic crossing in 2020, before pursuing the first unmanned circumnavigation in 2025 (MSUBS). HIPER shows us that the future starts now – in some cases it might have started without us noticing it yet.

Volker Bertram