The Baltic Sea is the world's largest brackish body of water and has many rare and unique ecosystems. It is also one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, where the oil and cargo traffic of St. Petersburg and western Russia cross paths with dozens of ferries. And it is about to get busier - Russia is building a giant oil terminal and passenger numbers are expected to increase when Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania join the EU.
There have been hundreds of minor oil spills here every year, many of them intentional releases of contaminated bilge water, but environmentalists most fear a disaster like the Prestige oil tanker spill last year that polluted 3,000 kilometres of Spanish coastline, killing 300,000 sea birds and directly affecting the livelihoods of 30,000 people. The Baltic is especially at risk since it is only connected to the North Sea by narrow channels and takes around 30 years for a complete exchange of the sea's water.
The EU has responded with a number of measures including an immediate ban on single-hulled oil tankers carrying heavy grades of oil from entering the waters of the European Union with only double-hulled tankers allowed to sail into ports from 2015. "In the past, shipping tankers have used 'single hull' technology. A twin hull combined with the propulsion system the team has designed should ensure the ships can withstand greater stresses", says project coordinator, Professor Krzysztof Rosochowicz from Gdansk University of Technology.
The coastal tankers being designed in EUREKA project E! 2772 BALTECOLOGICALSHIP intend to bridge the gap that is left with cost-effective, environmentally-friendly ships that have twin hulls that could prevent similar damaging environmental disasters.
"That we have received support (from EUREKA) to create this project together has been very important."
Prof. Krzysztof Rosochowicz
Gdansk University of Technology
A successful and economic double hull design will mean oil isn't spilt during collisions, reducing the risk of oil contaminated oceans, seaside resorts, protecting animal and plant life in the oceans and on the coastline and economies and livelihoods are saved.
"Our involvement in the EUREKA project helped significantly to create and develop the necessary specialised design groups," says Rosochowicz.
The team analysed ship hull manufacturing processes, studied the traffic in the Baltic area and carried out hydrodynamic and structural analysis of ships' hulls, systems and machinery to create ships that will be more environmental with lower emissions and waste (clean-class) and will be economical to build.
"The new hull design also brings additional benefits," explains Bjorn Carlsson, managing director of the Swedish partner Ecoship Engineering Ab. "If you streamline the ship in the fore and aft ends then it produces less resistance." This means the ships will use less fuel, while the hull design leaves more room for cargo.
The partners have applied the same designs to create container and roll on-roll off ships as well as river-sea vessels. In addition, the international cooperation with Swedish partners prepared a number of selected Polish maritime enterprises were prepared for implementation of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards.