The EU allocated a budget of €11 million for the project, of which €9 million is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme. The project involves 18 international entities representing the European shipping and shipbuilding industry from 11 countries, informs the EU website.
Dr Anthony Comer and Dr Ioannis Manolakis from the University of Limerick, Ireland, will be the project managers and experts.
The potential benefits of using composite materials in the shipbuilding sector include the reduction of up to 30% in the weight of ships, a decrease in fuel consumption of between 10% and 15%, and an increase in cargo capacity by roughly 12%, and a reduction of greenhouse gases.
In addition, FRPs are immune to corrosion that results in a better life cycle performance and reduced maintenance costs. Furthermore, replacing steel with composite materials offers additional advantages like an increase in ship stability and a reduction of underwater noise, an increase in recycling ratio from the current 34% for steel structures to 75%.
At present, Fiber-Reinforced Polymers (FRP) are widely used for the construction of ships of less than 50 meters in length. Actually, the most of the pleasure boats and sailboats, ferries, patrol boats and rescue ships are already manufactured with FRP materials.
However, the use of those materials for ships above 50 meters in length is limited to secondary structures and components. One of the main reasons for this limitation is the lack of design guidelines making it possible to prove that the use of those materials does not adversely affect the safety level of the vessel, as required by the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.
The project FIBRESHIP aims to drive the development and adoption of composites in the European shipbuilding industry. To achieve this aim, different technology gaps have to be filled. It will enable the use of FRP in the full-scale production of large-length seagoing and inland ships.
Different functional characteristics of the new materials, coatings and components, such as durability or fire-resistance, yet have to be researched. They have to be extensively tested to be certified for marine application.
The project managers have also to elaborate new design and production guidelines and procedures, generate efficient production and inspection methodologies, and develop new validated software analysis tools for functional safety.
The researchers will study different technological processes and compositions: thermosetting and thermoplastic matrix systems and several reinforcing fibers: carbon, glass and basalt fibers, biofibers, secondary polymeric fibers, as well as their combinations.
Dr Anthony Comer says that FIBRESHIP stands out as the first initiative to comprehensively introduce FRP in the construction of larger vessels.