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Assessment of Life-cycle Effect of Repairs on Tankers

The ALERT project (Assessment of Life-cycle Effect of Repairs on Tankers) will undertake a thorough examination of the current practices of European industry in the field of ship repair, and to propose improvements to the underlying processes in consultation with industry.

Tags: Water


Tankers carry close to 40% of the world’s seaborne trade. In 2003, 57% of all the oil consumed in the world was transported by sea – approximately 2 200 million tonnes.

The tanker Prestige suffered a structural failure in November 2002 in heavy seas off northern Spain and developed a severe list. One of the outcomes of this casualty was the expression of a new doubt by some regulators on whether major repairs conducted on older ships could be considered safe. The reason this new doubt was expressed was that the M/T Prestige had extensive repairs 18 months prior to its accident. Furthermore, these repairs were conducted under the Enhanced Survey Records, appearing to indicate that the procedures of the classification society were followed and that no shortcuts were taken. In the absence of a generally accepted explanation for the cause of the accident, the above events have resulted in questioning the safety of conducting large repairs on older ships. There are a number of obvious and compelling reasons as to why this question needs to be addressed from a rational and technical standpoint. The present proposal aims to address this issue by concentrating on those recommendations contained in the Prestige accident investigation report that are relevant to ship repairs.


  1. Undertake a thorough examination of current practices in the field of ship repair and propose improvements to the underlying processes in consultation with industry.
  2. Review existing and emerging technologies appropriate for ship-repair practices, and propose areas for the development of technologies for future application.
  3. Improve the efficiency of tankers by considering inspection, maintenance and repair scheduling.
  4. Consider a framework that will be capable of determining, rationally, the extent of repair work that an existing ship could safely undergo with minimum additional risk of structural failure.
  5. Promote a safe transportation system for Europe.
  6. Reduce human losses, injuries and environmental damage risk associated with transportation of hazardous goods by tankers.
  7. Encourage best practice in the tanker shipping and ship repair community.
  8. Effectively disseminate the results and facilitate their acceptance by European society and by industry.
  9. To coordinate these efforts and to demonstrate the positive effect of this coordination through the participation in integrated projects (IPs), Networks of Excellence (NoEs),

    Strategic Targeted Research Projects (STREPs) and other Coordinated Actions (CAs) for the effective distribution of best practice.

Description of work

Project ALERT will consist of five partly interdependent work packages carrying out all of the coordination activities. Work Package 5 is an integration package where exploitation activities, such as preparing research proposals and the dissemination of ideas generated within the project to a wider community, are carried out in light of the studies performed in Work Packages 1-4.

Work Package 1 will investigate existing ship repair practices; Work Package 2 will provide a study into condition monitoring of ships; Work Package 3 will study the structural strength assessment of tankers; Work Package 4 will study several areas of through-life management of tanker structures. The effects of operational profiles of tanker vessels, such as route planning and weather profiles, partial cargo loading, and heating of cargoes on the wastage (corrosion) rates and ultimately on the structural health of the vessel, will be considered. Work Package 5 aims to integrate and prioritise the research and development needs identified in Work Packages 1-4, and disseminate and exploit the project results and prepare research proposals in prioritised R&D areas. Work Package 5 will be responsible for the organisation of workshops and seminars to be held by the project. It will develop the future roadmaps for research by integrating the future research and development needs identified in each of the work packages.


State-of-the-art and R&D requirement reports will be produced in the following areas:

  • standard practices, class society requirements for the repair of ships and alternative repair practices;
  • consequences of structural reliability with new to old steel replacement;
  • development of common repair, inspection and maintenance;
  • non-destructive testing of welds;
  • means of detecting fatigue cracks and recording presence of fatigue cracks prior to repairs or renewal;
  • corrosion detection and protection, monitoring the environment in void and ballast spaces;
  • contact damage on the strength of a ship’s side structure and strength of securing arrangements for openings;
  • global and local strength;
  • influence of residual stresses;
  • effect of operational profiles on structural deterioration and failures of tankers;
  • legislative responsibilities, and repair and maintenance scheduling.