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Shipbuilding Technology Forum: Tech trends that will impact the industry in 2030

Crystal ball gazing is a common preoccupation during this time of the year. At the Shipbuilding Technology Forum held in Ottawa this Tuesday, Colin Clark, general manager of Lloyd’s Register’s Applied Technology Group, a consultancy specializing in innovating technology to solve complex client challenges within Lloyd’s Register, provided attendees a sneak peek at technologies that will have a huge impact in the shipbuilding industry in 2016 and beyond.

Growing demands for naval capability as well as commercial and scientific ocean space operational needs especially those related to Arctic exploration will power the adoption into the shipbuilding and vessel operation spaces of technologies now being used in the corporate world, according to Clark.

“Many parties are looking at expanding into the Arctic, they are interested in what will be available in the next five to 10 years and beyond that can be integrated into a shipbuilding strategy,” he said.

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Lloyd’s worked with its partners in the aerospace and defence, academe and think tank spaces to map out potential scenarios unfolding up until the year 2030 that would have repercussions on the shipbuilding industry.

The firm investigated no less than 56 key technologies and found 18 trends and technologies that will have profound effects on the industry.

Among those were:

  • Big data
  • Robotics
  • Autonomous unmanned vehicles
  • Nanotechnology advanced materials
  • 3D printing
  • Cyberwarfare
  • Human augmentation

“These are trends and technologies that we already see in the corporate, commercial and government spaces,” Clark told Vanguard Magazine. “By 2030, we believe they would be fully integrated into the shipping industry as well.”

He said the impact will be seen in internal development (power, propulsion, electronics) and external development as in the creation of advanced materials and use of big data to improve processes.

As global stresses mount and nations compete for resources, Clark said, opportunities for cyber warfare will likely increase. He foresees increasing interest, particularly in the naval space, in electronic systems for surveillance and “anti-hacking” defences that prevent the disarming and disabling systems in the vessel.

Shipbuilders will increasingly use big data and analytics tools to help them design better vessels.

At the same time, increased adoption of sensors and machine-to-machine communication can provide tons of data, enable pattern recognition, equipment diagnostics and prognostics that will assist the crew in achieving greater efficiency in operating the ship.

As nations move in on the Arctic and its unexplored waters and depths, drone technology will come into play with aquatic and sub-aquatic AUVs that can be deployed to navigate dangerous environments without putting humans at risk.

Human augmentation technologies such as exoskeleton development and connected technologies will also be in use to aid personnel and ensure their health.

Even 3D printing, according to Clark, will have a role in the  vessels of the near future.

“Traditionally ships stock up on repair parts they might need out at sea. This, however, adds weight to the vessel,” he said. “Imagine if the crew can simply print out the parts they need to replace – that will free up a lot of space and make up for a lighter vessel.”

Despite these forecasted advances, Clark stressed that the human factor should not be forgotten.

“The transfer of technology and knowledge will have to occur but for things to work, they will have to be integrated within regulations and with the crew’s capability in mind so that technology does not overrun the training profile,” Clark said.

Author: Nestor Arellano

Nestor Arellano is editor of Vanguard Magazine. Nestor is a seasoned journalist who has written extensively on defence and military industry issues as well as technology and business developments. He is also associate editor of Vanguard's sister publication, IT in Canada.

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