Marine Engineering in the 21st Century
Sep 15, 2013

Billed as an “opportunity to experience some ‘down east’ hospitality”, Mari-Tech 2013, the annual conference of the Canadian Institute of Marine Engineering (CIMarE) held earlier this year, was far more than that. Under its mandate to advance and promote the science and practice of engineering in marine and related professions in Canada, and with the recent designation of Irving Shipbuilding as the builder of the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships and the Royal Canadian Navy’s future surface combatant vessel, Halifax was a most appropriate location for the sixth annual gathering of marine engineers, scientists and various professionals who work within the marine sector.

The conference’s 12 major technical papers examined issues as diverse as the classification of Government shipbuilding projects, three dimensional scanning, and new design considerations for energy efficiency in ships. Its industry trade show portion featured almost 40 suppliers of services and equipment to marine industries.

The conference opened to a surprise visit by then-Defence Minister Peter MacKay who announced that “as part of the $5.2 billion earmarked in Economic Action Plan 2012 – our government will invest up to $488 million to acquire between 18 and 21 new vessels for the Coast Guard Fleet. These vessels will be open to bidding by shipyards across the country.”

The Mari-Tech Conference showcased the engagement of the federal government in the Canadian marine industry. A Procurement Outlook was presented by Public Works and Government Services Canada, describing the government’s procurement process in a more coherent method, and the work of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada was noted as furthering marine safety.

Many discussions centered around the need for increased efficiency and economic operation. Tony Teo, of Det Norske Veritas (USA) highlighted 21st century innovations, such as covering the ship hull with air bubbles to reduce friction and save fuel. He also discussed the four main elements necessary to improve energy efficiency for ships: reduction of hull resistance (which includes hull design optimization, coating, cleaning and propeller polishing); improvement of propulsion efficiency; improvement of the power plant (engine) efficiency; and improvement of operational efficiencies. He suggested that savings from improvements to propeller efficiency could emerge from better design to improve the inflow, the flow-behind, placement of the rudder and even the design of the propeller itself.

Cheryl Zimmerman of FarSounder Inc. of Rhode Island spoke of the importance of real time information ahead of the vessel at significant ranges, and outlined the benefits of ­forward looking sonar (FLS) to prevent groundings and collisions resulting from “poorly-charted, wrongly-placed, or transient obstacles”.

Surprising to some, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, more commonly seen and heard in relation to aircraft accidents, includes marine transportation as part of its mandate. TSB Board Member Capt John Clarkson spoke about the organization’s Safety Watchlist and its emphasis on marine safety management systems and reducing risk on fishing vessels.

Mari-Tech 2014 will be held from May 7-9 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and CIMarE invites interested groups to submit presentation abstracts for consideration. The upcoming conference will look at the future of a ­sustainable Marine Industry in terms of progression and will provide ­participants with “a view and a vision of how the future of marine industry in the world could look.”

Tim Dunne is FrontLine’s East Coast correspondent
© FrontLine Magazines 2013