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ABS works locally to develop global solutions

"SIRC is working currently with local industry partners to propose several ABS-led R&D projects for MINT funding," says Dr Gu.

THE American Bureau of Shipping's (ABS) Singapore Innovation and Research Center (SIRC) is its largest research and development (R&D) centre outside the home country. Significantly, 12 of its 20 full-time R&D staff here - a mix of locals and foreigners - are PhDs.

SIRC's mission is to conduct R&D for rule development and to provide technical support to the other departments of ABS and the local industry. This is achieved through partnerships with local industry, government and academia, says centre director Hai Gu.

ABS signed a memorandum of understanding with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) last year to promote maritime research, development and innovation. Under it, ABS is to do maritime R&D in many areas in Singapore actively working with MPA and the local industry.

Founded in 1862, ABS, a New York-based not-for-profit corporation, is committed to setting standards for safety and excellence as one of the world's leading ship classification societies.

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"In addition to ABS-funded R&D, SIRC participates in joint industry projects led by universities, carries out joint development projects with shipyards and works with local institutes of higher learning (IHLs), industry partners and government agencies such as the MPA on R&D projects," says Dr Gu.

"The goal of these maritime and offshore studies is to help improve the competence of local industry. ABS works locally to develop global solutions."

ABS opened a port office in Singapore in 1958 and was the first classification society to establish a regional headquarters here. It now has more than 350 people in Singapore.

In 2007, ABS set up its first technology centre outside the US in Singapore. The centre was renamed in 2013, and research expanded beyond the original focus to include maritime R&D.

MPA supports SIRC through the Maritime Innovation and Technology (MINT) Fund. SIRC has participated in several MINT-funded R&D projects led by local universities, including work with local IHLs on dynamically installed deepwater anchors, assessing cleavage fractures in structural steels in Arctic applications, and creating a virtual lab for computational fluid dynamics (CFD).

"SIRC is working currently with local industry partners to propose several ABS-led R&D projects for MINT funding," says Dr Gu.

ABS cooperates with MPA to initiate and promote R&D projects in maritime areas such as sustainable shipping, offshore engineering technologies and LNG bunkering.

Plans are in place for ABS to work with MPA, industry players and IHLs in Singapore to identify projects to be undertaken both with MPA and other partners. ABS will also work with MPA to organise maritime-related thought leadership workshops and seminars to promote maritime and offshore technologies in the Singapore maritime community, he adds.

SIRC's team of 20 full-time researchers includes 11 members sourced from the US, China, Japan and Norway. "With a diverse team in terms of culture, expertise and experience, it is possible to have more creative problem-solving," notes Dr Gu.

SIRC focuses on several areas. Its CFD team has carried out many studies related to environmental loads on offshore structures such as extreme wave loads due to hurricanes, vortex-induced motion of floating platforms and jack up leg wave drag force.

The team has the capability to handle projects related to all kinds of fixed and floating platforms. Recent efforts have targeted marine topics, focusing on the performance of ships and offshore platforms.

Dr Gu says his researchers are also studying energy saving device (ESD) performance on ships. Due to the environmental concerns facing the shipping/shipbuilding industry, the demand for the reduction of CO2 emissions is greater than ever before. Since energy-saving propulsion in future ship design is becoming more important, companies are adopting ESDs to recover flow energy in the ship stern area for efficient propulsion.

Using CFD technology, SIRC evaluates ESD performance and investigates slamming loads. This capability helps ABS clients evaluate new ESD designs and results from the research benefit the shipping industry in the areas of environmental protection and marine safety.

Dr Gu says that as regulations on noise and vibration are becoming more stringent, this is driving industry to improve technologies. For example, the 2014 edition of International Maritime Organization (IMO) code on noise levels on board ships reduces the acceptable noise level in accommodation spaces of larger ships.

SIRC is working with MPA and a local shipyard on a plan to study vibration analysis and mitigation solutions that involves both numerical simulations and on-board tests. Through these efforts it will develop comprehensive capability to handle noise and vibration issues of both ships and offshore structures.

According to Dr Gu, work is also being done on structural health monitoring (SHM) using sensors to monitor the status of a structure and identify failures such as cracks and corrosion in real time. SHM systems can help shift shipping classification to a more informed, risk-based process and constitute an important technology for the future.

SIRC is working with local IHLs on several projects, including numerical modelling of corrosion mapping in ship structures using ultrasonic guided waves, customising fibre optic sensing for SHM, and an integrated non-destructive coating inspection system for marine and offshore corrosion management. Work will begin this month on the final two projects, which have been awarded Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) grants, says Dr Gu.

SIRC is developing a guide that will cover recommendations for the design, construction and installation of various types of offshore foundation system. It is also working with a local university to study pipeline-soil-water interaction effects for realistic deepwater pipeline design.

Dr Gu points out that subsea is becoming an essential consideration in oilfield development. A well-designed subsea system can deliver cost reductions while maximising well performance over the life of a field. SIRC research focuses on developing a design guide for subsea production and processing systems.

SIRC will begin work with a local university this month on a project funded by an SMI grant to study offshore pipeline integrity and risk due to slug flow regime, he adds.