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Decision-support System for Ships in Degraded Condition

DSS_DC develops decision-support tools for handling crisis situations onboard cruise ships, oil tankers and other ships. The situations covered are problems in propulsion systems, hull damage and intentional grounding – including in adverse weather conditions. Co-operation tools for use onboard and between ship and shore will also be developed.

Tags: Water


Shipping has had a continuously improving safety record over the last decades. However, accidents will still happen and with ever bigger passenger and cargo ships, the consequences of not handling the accident optimally may become very serious. New cruise liners carry almost 4 000 passengers to areas where it may not be very safe to launch lifeboats. The Prestige accident shows what can happen if an oil tanker spills its cargo. Thus it is of outmost importance to be able to keep the ship floating as long as is necessary and if this proves not to be feasible, it will be necessary to analyse the consequences of alternative actions, such as intentional grounding. This has also been recognised by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) through its passenger ship safety programme and by the EU through various directives to increase the safety of shipping.


The following are the main technical and scientific objectives of DSS_DC:

  1. Develop a model for interaction and co-operation between onboard and onshore decision-makers in an emergency.
  2. Perform an analysis of onboard alarms and propose how alarm handling can be integrated in the overall decision-support system (e.g. through alarm priorities, risk-based alarm hierarchies, etc.)
  3. Develop a computer and network architecture for implementation of the co-operative decision-support system. This shall support all DSS_DC modules as well as existing systems on ship and land.
  4. Develop a prototype ‘multi-function console’ (MFC) that integrates the decision-makers’ interface requirements (see objective 1) as well as supports the ship/shore co-operation model from objective 1.
  5. Develop a decision-support (DS) module for ships with degraded manoeuvring and/or propulsion systems. Support both immediate operational requirements as well as a ‘what if’ type analysis. Weather effects shall be considered.
  6. Develop a DS module for assessing the effects of hull damage under various operational and weather conditions. The module covers hull strength and damage propagation. It will be able to give operational advice on changes in speed, course and ballast distribution.
  7. Develop a DS module for intentional grounding and for advice after an accident. It shall be able to give predictions on hull damage and pollution (from cargo and bunkers) in case of grounding (being afloat afterwards) and stranding (being stuck). Weather effects shall be considered.
  8. Develop a DS module for immediate assessment of current status and trends in the propulsion system’s technical condition. The module will make use of a hierarchical system of technical condition indices (TCIs) that will make it possible to assess functional consequences of component degradation as well as trace the consequences back to the component(s) causing the degradation.
  9. Develop weather and sea routing functionality that can interact with the degraded manoeuvring DS module to provide overall ship routing in all conditions. There will also be interfaces to the hull damage module to allow the inclusion of weather conditions and forecasts.

Passenger-ship - the bridge
Passenger-ship - the bridge
Carnival plc

Description of work

Computer science: DSS_DC will be widely distributed in a multi-tier system and via the Internet domain. Of particular importance is online collaboration between ship and shore over low capacity satellite data links.

Simulation and analysis of ship responses: This is used to implement the degraded manoeuvrability module. The module will be able to detect certain errors in the manoeuvring and propulsion systems to simulate future behaviour, for example when operating in adverse weather in restricted waters.

Effects of hull damage and sea loads: The system will use a set of pre-calculated datasets from existing numerical methods combined with interpolation mechanisms to estimate stresses in a damaged hull in various conditions.

Hull penetration and cargo outflow after grounding: A similar approach to that in the previous paragraph will be taken. Advanced numerical methods will be used to calculate data tables that can be used to estimate effects of various grounding scenarios.

Key performance indicators (KPI): As technical condition indices (TCI), these will be developed for the technical condition of propulsion machinery. It will be used to give an at-a-glance assessment of current conditions and operational margins. The system will also be extended to ‘life support’ systems such as fresh and black water plants.


DSS_DC will demonstrate the use of an integrated decision-support system onboard a shuttle tanker and a cruise ship. The system will integrate the functions discussed above as well as support onshore organisations in the decision-making process.

Deliverables are partly the developed modules and partly the corresponding documentation. Various public papers will also be included as part of the project deliverables.

Passenger-ship engine-room
Passenger-ship engine-room
Carnival plc