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Ship Repair to Maintain Transport which is Environmentally Sustainable

As an activity, ship repair and conversion has more of the characteristics of a service industry than manufacturing. Relative to shipbuilding, it is high volume, rapid turnaround and highly unpredictable. This project is important in its structure because it is driven by the industry identifying its problems and requirements, and involves the academic community to help devise solutions.

Tags: Water

The Shipmates project aims to ensure that the European ship repair and conversion sector improves its market share.


There are 400 repair yards in Europe, mostly SMEs, working on more than a purely local level. This was established in a database development exercise as part of the Fourth Framework Programme’s SYRIOS project.

The EU ship repair industry sector maintains around 40 000 ocean-going ships (around 45% of the world’s total) which trade in EU waters. Of these, 50% are docked annually (the typical interval between dockings is 30 months, but some types, for example ferries, are docked annually). The industry employs over 40 000 people directly. In addition, the consistent use of sub-contractors results in a further 40 000 jobs. The EU also has a significant marine supply chain, providing the equipment and spare parts for the ships, and an additional 40 000 jobs at least can be attributed to the companies in this supply chain.


The main objective of the project is to certify that the EU repair and conversion industry is able to improve its share of the world market and to improve the life-cycle quality of the EU fleet, reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency.

It is estimated that the development of new methods of work will allow the stakeholders to reduce manufacturing costs by 30-40% and work lead-times by 25% in the areas covered by the project. Furthermore, research activities will develop new tools, potentially leading to in an increase of productivity by 5% and a repair cost reduction by 3-6%. In all cases it is expected that material costs can be reduced by 10%.

The operational goal is to produce a framework and prototype tools to assist stakeholders in the ship repair and conversion industry in achieving the main objective of the project.

The SHIPMATES project aims to promote breakthrough research and technological developments to achieve improved product quality and performance based on cost-effective and environmentally friendly production systems on a life-cycle basis. Research will seek to reduce manufacturing costs and production lead times.

An additional goal is the increase by 25% of clean maintenance, dismantling and recycling of vessels as provided by the partners.

The consortium will achieve the operational goal through the development of new methods to work in a safer, more environmentally friendly and competitive manner. This will be coupled with the delivery of the research and development results to the industry and stakeholders in a way that assists and encourages them to take practical advantage of what has been developed.

Description of work

The work packages in this proposal are intended to provide a clear understanding of best practice in the sector, and to map and simulate the range of repair and conversion yard activities, with the exception of the painting and coating range of activities, covered in the separate but related SHIP-RECOAT proposal. Then, three work packages will run simultaneously: seeking to improve the steel cutting and joining processes relevant to repair yards; improving the processes of repair and replacement of cabling and pipe work; and establishing a controlled process for converting/retrofitting ships to make their operation more environmentally friendly. The work in these three work packages will be used in a further package devoted to devising ways in which ship breaking can be carried out in Europe in a safe, environmentally friendly and economically efficient way. The project, led as it is by the AWES (European Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers Association) Group on ship repair, is emphasising the accessibility to industry of the results of the research work to be done. The AWES Group itself will take prime responsibility in the project for dissemination of project results.


This project is designed to provide the ship repair sector with the tools to improve and strengthen its competitiveness within the global and regional markets. This will maximise the ability of the sector to carry out necessary repairs, refits and upgrades to ships in EU seas. The improvement in the quality of the fleet, which is the final intended outcome, has to be achieved as economically as possible. The SHIPMATES project is progressing as scheduled and the development of the described technologies, together with the comprehensive gap analysis, will help European shipyards to maintain a technological advantage over its competitors.