At The Helm

Mr Mathai Pambrakaran, Senior Vice President, Engineering & Design Centre, reveals the thinking behind the Marine sector’s latest vessel designs and maritime solutions.

How has the design of defence and commercial vessels evolved in recent years?

On the defence side, we see a growing demand for vessels that can perform multiple roles via modular capabilities and higher automation, leading to leaner manning. The Independence class Littoral Mission Vessels that we built for the Republic of Singapore Navy is a good example. Likewise, the Vanguard series, which boasts a flexible mission bay and highly operable and adaptable launch and recovery systems, is our latest answer to the demand for modular capabilities with one design.

Other aspects on the naval side include a growing trend for low signature and high survivability, and the replacement of combined diesel and diesel engines with hybrid and full diesel-electric options in line with the multi-mission operational profile. On platform design, we’re also seeing greater provisions for future growth, new technologies and digitalisation, with an emphasis on smart and intelligent operations, life cycle support and management.

In the paramilitary sector, the trick is to balance the requirement for ultrahigh speeds and enhanced manoeuvrability with ride comfort for the crew. On the commercial side, fuel-efficient hull forms, energy saving designs, energy recovery and green energy solutions are becoming increasingly important, with the ship’s energy efficiency design index becoming more significant in the design consideration.

What are some of the next-generation technologies under development at the Marine sector to address these requirements?

We are constantly looking at ways to improve our hull forms and platform designs. Numerical simulations using computational fluid dynamics, non-liner finite element analysis and signature management tools are an extensive part of this process. Today, the Air Cavity Hull is among our key offerings. It has been proven to reduce drag, improve vessel speeds, lower fuel consumption and enhance sea-keeping performance. We are evaluating alternative hulls for our newly launched Super Swift series of vessels, which are designed to operate at high speeds of over 60 knots. Transonic Hull  technology is one of them, specifically for the medium to large size unmanned surface vessels. This offers significant improvements in fuel efficiency and superior platform operability in high sea states.

Platform technologies, such as our configurable mission bay and patented launch-and-recovery system known as the Q-LARS 2.0, can be digitally controlled via our NERVA ship management and sensemaking system for manned-unmanned teaming operations. We are also exploring various possibilities to replace traditional “man-in-the-loop” systems with automated and autonomous solutions.

Where do you see Marine’s design and engineering expertise being applied? What are some of your growth markets?

Our design and engineering expertise cover the entire life cycle of naval programmes, and can be extended to the para-military sector, especially ultra-high speed vessels and long/medium endurance unmanned surface vessels. For the defence export sector, our engineering strengths can certainly be put to good use for maritime security and for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations.

On the commercial side, our experience in the design of specialised offshore support vessels (OSVs) such as diving support vessels, large anchor handling tug supply vessels and seismic survey vessels lends itself to the customisation of sophisticated vessels for the renewable energy sector. Our recent successes with the delivery of a highly complex LNG-powered ConRo has given us the confidence to capture opportunities in the growing market for LNG vessels and propulsion systems, including large high-speed aluminium vessels with LNG propulsion. We also aim to offer basic and/or detailed design and engineering solutions for the RoPax and fisheries sector.

Given the high degree of engineering and customisation involved in OSVs, what makes for an effective design?

The key disadvantage behind the construction of highly customised and complex OSVs is the significant equipment cost. One possibility would be to adapt the design principles of our Vanguard series for commercial markets. The idea is to build from an easily configurable standard vessel design with diesel-electric propulsion. The intended outcomes would be greater flexibility, better vessel utilisation and thus, more sustainable and effective revenue generation.

In your view, what are Marine’s biggest opportunities in the near term?

For the defence sector, we see strong potential in our Vanguard series of multi-mission patrol vessels, as well as the Endurance series of landing platform docks for HADR operations. For paramilitary and coastal defence, our Super Swift series of interceptors are designed with an optimised hull form to deliver high speeds of over 60 knots.

On the commercial side, the demand is for LNG-powered solutions that comply with IMO emission guidelines, as well as service operation vessels and crew transfer vessels in the non-renewable sector. We also see growing interest in LNG bunkering vessels, articulated tug barges, LNG carriers, and floating power plants; and we intend to bring to the table our research and experience in the development of large unmanned surface vessels for autonomous operations.