A new three-year research project has been launched to address the safety and efficiency of Arctic ship operations.
Safe Maritime Operations Under Extreme Conditions (SEDNA) aims to mitigate navigation issues, as well as design vessel coatings based on the water-repellent feathers of penguins.
With global warming taking its toll on the ice in Arctic waters, more and more routes are opening to shipping companies looking for a shortcut. Last year researchers at the University of Reading, UK, predicted that there will be double the opportunities for vessels to cross the Arctic by 2050.
SEDNA aims to make Arctic waters safer, as increasing numbers of vessels travelling through freezing waters has already resulted in more casualties, highlighting how many vessels aren’t built for the task.
Philipp Lohrmann, SEDNA’s project co-ordinator, said: “If you take a shortcut through the Arctic rather than go all the way around it, that is a massive saving in fuel and time, so that’s motivation; the idea is to have a bit of an international co-operation because obviously a lot of countries are interested in Arctic shipping.”
The isolated nature of Arctic voyages means that ships need to be capable of handling tough weather and freezing conditions.
A key aspect of SEDNA will be developing new ways to protect ships from Arctic conditions as ice is one of the biggest threats.
SEDNA aims to develop anti-icing solutions that can be applied to ships to prevent build-up, with scientists currently looking for inspiration from an unexpected source – penguins.
“Their feathers have a mixture of nanostructure and hydrophobic oil covers that repel water and prevent it from freezing on the surface,” Lohrmann said
It is also claimed that SEDNA will use numerical simulation tools to study various types of icebreaking procedures. Researchers will also attempt to produce a risk-based framework with which shipbuilders could design vessels specifically for Arctic operations.
Lohrmann added: “We’re working closely with the stakeholders and we’re in contact with actual mariners to make sure what we do is useful and close to reality.”
With Arctic waters in a state of constant flux, there’s a concern that solutions developed could be outdated by the time they are tested.