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The Virtual Tank Utility in Europe

VIRTUE is an Integrated Project proposal in response to the call on virtual environment for an integrated fluid dynamic analysis in ship design. It constitutes an EU-wide initiative of leading marine CFD players to create a virtual basin by integrating advanced numerical fluid analysis tools to tackle multi-criteria hydrodynamic performance optimisation of ships in a comprehensive and holistic approach. It will aim to complement model testing in real basins and thus substantially enhance the provision of current services to the marine industry and to nurture development of innovative design techniques and concepts.

Tags: Water


Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is becoming an increasingly important tool for analysing flows around ships and propulsors. CFD methods allow a better understanding of the flow phenomena around the hull, give physical insight in the flow characteristics and so can provide the background for design integration. Today’s methods do, however, lack a final accuracy to match results obtained in experiments. The combination of improved accuracy applied in integrated design optimisation is the key to future ship design.

Facing an increased demand for seagoing freight and passenger transportation, the European shipbuilding and shipping industry will heavily rely on improved ships and ship design analysis tools. This project addresses particular aspects such as the improvement of performance, efficiency, safety and environmental friendliness. All of these are, to a large extent, influenced by the hydrodynamic behaviour of a vessel and will be addressed in VIRTUE’s different work packages.


VIRTUE will initially concentrate on the development of new, and the further improvement of existing, high-precision CFD tools, which will allow an integrated and complete numerical analysis of marine hydrodynamic behaviour in a virtual environment, the virtual tank utility. By improving the accuracy, flexibility and reliability of CFD predictions, and by integrating presently disparate tools into an integrated platform, VIRTUE promises to deliver important advantages to the shipbuilding industry, including:

  • reduced manufacturing costs through shorter lead times and more focused designs
  • improved design and product quality
  • increased range and quality of service offered by European hydrodynamics service providers and an increased market share in the design and analysis of maritime products
  • increased R&D capacity of the sector as a whole.

VIRTUE’s scientific and technological objectives to achieve these ambitious goals include:

- formally integrating numerical tools, using proven approaches, into an environment for complete modelling and simulation of ship behaviour at sea

- providing smooth and versatile communication and data exchange link between marine CFD service providers, such as model basins, and the end user

- providing the means – CFD tools, integration platform and optimisation techniques – to cover the whole range of hydrodynamic problems and to facilitate and support multi-disciplinary design optimisation of new ships.

Computed streamlines on a container ship hull from a free surface RANSE prediction
Computed streamlines on a container ship hull from a free surface RANSE prediction
HSVA / ZIB 2006

Description of work

Through large-scale international collaboration, bringing together the leading model basins in Europe, academia, software providers and marine consultants, VIRTUE will improve and integrate state-of-the-art, high-precision CFD tools from a number of origins in a virtual environment simulating ship behaviour at sea and providing an important complement to real test basins in the provision of marine hydrodynamic services. The project will be integrating services and CFD tools from four different virtual tanks:

  • the virtual towing tank
  • the virtual sea-keeping tank
  • the virtual manoeuvring tank
  • the virtual cavitation tank/tunnel.
  • a fifth work package, the integration platform, will provide the prerequisites for an integrated optimisation based on common standards for data provision and the presentation of results.


CFD developments and improvements are progressing according to plan. No new fully operational codes are expected after the first project year. More significant demonstrations of new software are foreseen for the mid-term milestone of the project in Month 24. At the end of the first year, a functional prototype of the integration platform could be presented. This should cover basic functionalities of the various software packages involved, e.g. CAD, CFD solvers and visualisation. The prototype will be continuously improved and enhanced over time so more results will become available soon. Project results are being presented in conferences and publications, and dedicated workshops are planned in 2007/8. News on project events is available from the project website.

This coherent and all-embracing hydrodynamic analysis system will help increase the competitiveness of EU shipbuilding and shipping industries, and promote a truly European co-operation with strong structuring and integration effects, strengthen SMEs through involvement in leading-edge developments as a means to gaining and sustaining competitive advantage and leadership, and enhance quality and safety in waterborne transportation.

RANSE prediction of the viscous flow around a propeller - visualisation of hub vortex
RANSE prediction of the viscous flow around a propeller - visualisation of hub vortex
HSVA / ZIB 2006