Thursday, 17 September 2009

Coming up: Sea Trains in the Arctic

The future of sustainable shipping post climate change?

Could the Arctic Ocean be sailed in the future by ship trains more than a kilometer and a half long? It certainly appears so after DNV gave an assignment to a bunch of bright summer students recently. Called “Sustainable adaption to climate change: Arctic opportunities and threats,” the project gave the thirteen students six weeks to come up with a concept for a “ship” called the AMV Njord: The Arctic Modular Vessel.

The year 2050 was chosen for the project. This is the year by which the Arctic Ocean is predicted to be free of ice all summer, although it will have easily breakable ‘first year ice’ formation in winter. With these parameters in mind, DNV picked five young women and eight young men and asked them to conceptualise the AMV Njord. These students, all Scandinavians, came from disciplines as diverse as biology, energy, IT, logistics and naval architecture.

The students’ final solution? A deceptively simple concept: a ship that is planned like a train with many ‘modules’, each 200 metres long. The total length of the AMV Njord can be as much as 1.8 kilometres, which would imply a maximum of nine modules. Each module will have a high sail that will catch the wind at a height of 300 metres. Additional propulsion will use hydrogen fuel cells and have 200 metre long propulsion units at each end. Also envisaged at each end: submersible propeller thrusters.

Finally, a rotating bow will transform from a normal bow to an ice breaking one as the modular vessel sails from ice free seas to areas with ice formation requires a stronger bow. Navigational equipment will be satellite based and advanced, no special equipment being required for a journey across the Arctic.

DNV was reportedly thrilled that its experienced staff could find no flaws in the students’ groundbreaking concept. The thirteen youngsters made a presentation at the DNV Head Office amidst a slew of industry participants, including representatives from shipping companies and from three Norwegian Ministries, besides equipment manufacturers. Senior staff at DNV expressed admiration for the concept and the presentation, which was made twice so that everyone could see it close up.

“Ships are getting bigger and bigger. We’re pushing boundaries all the time. This concept is a continuation of this trend,” said Maersk Director Wilhelm Mohr at the presentation.

”I’m proud to be responsible for this,” says Gustav Lyb√¶k Heiberg, Project Responsible in DNV. ”Our intention with this student project is to attract the most clever people and get them to look at our problems with fresh eyes.”

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