They reduce fuel consumption, are gentle on the environment and last longer. Interest in lightweight composite materials is increasing in Sweden and several maritime projects are underway.
”Swedish industry can benefit from what is happening”, Tommy Hertzberg, a researcher at RISE who’s reviving a Swedish network for Lightweight constructions at sea, says.
The Gothenburg archipelago is home to the world's first High Speed-Craft (HSC) classed carbon fiber catamaran, Valö. She was launched in 2010 and gained the international classification thanks to the work within the research project Lightweight construction at sea, which Tommy Hertzberg led in 2005-2008.
“A lot of good things came out of that project. For example, Kockum's sold parts made of lightweight materials to India and Singapore for a long time, and we started the Swedish lightweight network S-LÄSS to support the industry.”
But it wasn't just in Sweden things happened. Requests came from other countries to join S-LÄSS and by 2013, when projects had subsided here, the European E-LASS network was formed. Today, the network has almost 400 members from about 300 organizations in 32 countries.
“Right now, two research projects are underway in the EU, RAMSSES and Fibreship, which together have a budget of SEK 250 million. This makes it clear that the EU wants to invest in composite. It will primarily be used in parts of ships; superstructures, cabins, deck houses and other things”, Tommy Hertzberg says:
“It’s about reducing the weight, both to make today's engines emit less carbon dioxide and to make battery operation realistic. Among smaller electric-powered ferries, the use of composites is now increasing and when Stena, within the framework of a Lighthouse project, is looking at how to design of an electric-powered passenger ferry, lightweight material is included in the study. A game changer in this is also the yards that in recent years have become more and more interested. The major shipyards in Europe are part of the EU projects.”
Lightweight composite has a lot benefits. It is compliant, solves sealing and corrosion problems and does not wear out. However, two things speak against the material - the price and the risk of fire. It is more expensive than steel and of course cath fire easier.
“Fire risk is the major challenge. The IMO regulations SOLAS govern this. In the past you had to build boats with steel, but since 2002 you can basically build how you want if only you can prove that the construction is still safe. And that's a lot of what our job has consisted of - teaching flag states and classification societies how good the material is and proving to a fairly traditional and conservative industry that it's safe enough.”
In Sweden, things are happening again with composite. A number of major projects are underway and when, for example, the coastguard is to build new vessels, only carbon fiber applies for environmental reasons. With a growing domestic market, Tommy Hertzberg has taken the initiative to start up the Swedish network for lightweight constructions again.
“The purpose is largely to get Swedish players involved in E-lass. This is where international agreements are concluded and business takes place.”
On March 12, a first seminar will be held at Lindholmen in Gothenburg.
“During the day, the Swedish projects that are underway will be presented. We will also talk about EU projects, battery-powered ferries and what is happening in IMO before we conclude with a discussion about how we should organize a Swedish maritime lightweight network, Tommy Hertzberg says