Design atelier MIWB Koelman

Lecturer Koelman: Rearranging Maritime Industry Requires Intensive R&D

Intensive research and development are a prerequisite to make the maritime industry future-proof. In addition, simulation is to play a much larger role in maritime education. These are just some of the conclusions of the new lecturer Maritime Innovative Technologies Herbert Koelman at the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz (MIWB) in the Netherlands.

In his inaugural speech, Dr Koelman spoke of the challenges maritime industry faces, such as the greenhouse effect, digitisation and dropping numbers of maritime engineering students. He said: 'Our views and the choices we make are often driven by influences from the world around us. If you regularly open a newspaper, this will not come as new to you, as the current news themes are, after Trump, Brexit and Royalty, the greenhouse effect and the advancing digitisation. The latter can be seen as a catch-all concept for countless computer applications such as big data, artificial intelligence, use and abuse of data, autonomous transport and robotisation. These developments are also affecting the maritime industry.'

Dr Koelman (left) at his inauguration (picture by SWZ|Maritime/H.S. Klos).

Upgrade for Maritime Education

Dr Koelman feels maritime education can benefit from new digital tools and sees a significant role for simulation. He feels it is time to let go of the outdated Design Spiral and instead opt for design tools on an empirical basis and 'evolutionary algorithms'. Together these can result in new optimisation techniques in ship design. Koelman: 'These optimisation techniques are abundant and will be more widely used at the MIWB.'

Ship Stability in a Game

One of the plans being worked on is a "serious game" on ship stability. He feels the need of maritime industry have changed. Whereas determining a ship's stability used to be quite a mathematical task, computers can now perform this task in just four seconds. 

He wondered whether a book is the best way to learn about ship stability. He commented: 'Perhaps learning from experience is more suitable. This could be done with a model in a water trough or on open water, but then students can only observe the stability effect without seeing any of the underlying physical mechanisms. Therefore, a game would be better. And not just as a game, but augmented with the underlying physics.'

Still, he agrees students should still learn the mathematical formulas at the base of ship stability, but he would like to end courses with them and not begin with them.

Maritime Design Atelier

The MIWB is also planning the design and integration of a Maritime Design Atelier for the Maritime Engineering Department. The Atelier will be used for educational and research projects, guest lectures and workshops by companies, training and courses for professionals, et cetera. It will also be the workplace of a number of simulation software developers, allowing mock-ups or pilots of simulators to be devloped and tested there.

Watch a video of the Maritime Design Atelier below (Dutch commentary).

Intensive R&D

In addition to these developments, Dr Koelman discusses the challenges facing the maritime industry with regards to dropping numbers of maritime engineering students. Although the outlook is not good, he remains hopeful: 'The greenhouse effect is seen as one of the biggest problems of our time, but most people don't want to give up any of their wealth and consumption potential, so the solution is expected from technical innovations. Unfortunately, student numbers are low; the maritime sector has a much greater need of new maritime professionals than is currently being provided by the study programmes. The only way in which this small group can succeed in reorganising the maritime world, is through intensive research and development (R&D). In addition, research funding at universities of applied sciences and universities is often related to the number of students, which means that it is correspondingly low for our sector. No situation to accept, however. This is something that we must work on together.'

Read a shortened version of his speech in SWZ|Maritime's May issue (subscribers only) or download the full lecture speech here (both in Dutch).

Picture (top): Among other things, the Maritime Design Atelier is to boost simulation software development.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.

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