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Production to improve total efficiency of new generation short sea shipping

CREATE3S aims at developing a new generation of ships for short-sea operations using an innovative modular concept of separate (ship) platform modules and interchangeable cargo-containing modules. Though the use of advanced manufacturing techniques, production lead-times and costs are expected to be reduced by approximately 10%.

Tags: Water


Economy and society cannot function without the efficient movement of goods and people; transport is therefore a key factor in modern economies. The challenges of providing an effective transport system across Europe remain acute, particularly as governments try to balance conflicting demands for increased access and mobility with solving traffic congestion, pollution and rising costs. Short-sea shipping has already demonstrated its ability to solve transport problems within an expanded EU, for absorbing increasing demand for intra European transport and for reducing congestion on European roads.

Short-sea shipping is a crucial European market for; waterborne transport, the shipbuilding/ship repair industry, logistic chains of hundreds of ports and terminals, some 3 460 ship owners and their 10 000-ship fleets. Short-sea shipping is thus key to enhancing competitiveness and solving transport problems within a growing EU; there are few issues that serve both these strategic goals.

Short-sea shipping volumes are expected to increase by 50% between 2000 and 2020. Since 40% of the current fleet is older than 25 years, Short-sea shipping needs a new generation of innovative ships to meet this potential market. These ships need; enhanced economic, safety and ecological performance, fitting into future innovative logistic chains and providing a major role for EU shipbuilders.


Traditionally ship concepts contain two physically inseparable main function groups: platform functions (buoyancy, power generation, propulsion, hotel, etc.), and cargo functions (cargo containment/treatment/handling). CREATE3S aims to develop a ship concept consisting of two basic modules: a ship-platform module and ancillary interchangeable cargo-containing modules. At sea, ship-platform and cargo-containing modules are joined (linked) together. Once at the destination the entire cargo-containing module is discharged and replaced by a new cargo-containing module, much the same as a truck chassis/container combination. The shorter the time spent in ports for loading and unloading will allow for more voyages while reducing port fees per voyage; the risk is the eventual higher cost of implementing this new concept.

To meet this risk, CREATE3S will develop standardisation and modularisation concepts in ship-platform design that will enable the use of advanced manufacturing techniques, thereby reducing lead-time and labour costs. Introducing low-mass hull structures will enhance payload capacity, thus obtaining additional economic gain.

Description of work

CREATE3S work programme of one management and four RTD work packages will follow an end-user driven, problem-solving approach in five sequential steps. The first step outlines the concept of economic boundaries from the end-user/operator’s point of view: the economic/operational parameters for the new concept will be identified and quantified. Then the problem-solving process proceeds in two sequential cycles of analysis – synthesis – evaluation steps: initial concept (step 2), first assessment (step 3), modification and pilots (step 4) and final assessment (step 5).

These five steps form the work plan ‘back-bone’ or main R&D flow (Work Package 2), a structured process where the new modular concept is being developed and where inputs from different disciplines are integrated. These disciplines are contained within the three other work packages: Critical Technologies – hydromechanics and structures (Work Package 3), Operations, logistics, economy and ecology (Work Package 4), and Advanced manufacturing techniques (Work Package 5).

There are four distinctive innovation categories:

  • product-related innovation: modular ship concept of platform and cargo modules, better hull form and lighter structure
  • operational innovations: short turn-around cycle in ports, more flexibility and faster cargo delivery method
  • manufacturing innovations: shorter lead times, reduced risk, modular approach in production, distributed process and new production organisation model
  • business model innovations: different ways of capturing value through a shipbuilding distributed process.


The complete list of deliverables is:

Dissemination Plan, 3 Dissemination reports,

Challenger report on challenges from new generation vessels,

Basic definitions,

Cargo systems.

Integrated concept

First assessment

Pilot concepts

Final assessment

Hull modules form

Performance analysis at sea

Operational requirements

Assessment model operations

Environmental assessment

Modular concept manufacturing

Manufacturing strategy

CREATE3S will make advances with respect to the state of the art in:

Ship concepts:

  • cargo unit (module) containing the entire ship cargo carrying capacity
  • cargo unit with no buoyant capability, loaded/unloaded directly to/from land-side
  • the interface between ship hull and cargo modules and the loading/unloading system

Hydromechanic performance:

  • ship hull forms for a number of ship families, offering better hydromechanic performance

Ship structures:

  • lighter and cheaper ship hull-structure families, industrialised production manner
  • large cargo modules fitting the ship-platform modules

Shipping operations:

  • less time spent in ports
  • more flexibility in short-sea shipping operations

Ship production:

  • reduced man-hours in the entire process chain
  • reduced lead time and more flexibility to cope with customer requirements
  • improved working conditions
  • improved product quality through pre-tested standard components
  • modular products which can easily be adopted to short-term changes in the market.