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Unlocking New Capabilities with SWATH and Autonomy

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

The Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH) design has proven to be a game-changer in maritime transportation, offering capabilities that traditional hull forms cannot match. With its unique characteristics and exceptional stability, SWATH opens up new possibilities for operations in high seas, efficient launch and recovery systems, and enhanced performance in various maritime applications.

One of the key capabilities of SWATH hulls lies in their remarkable stability in challenging sea conditions. Unlike conventional monohull designs, SWATH vessels feature two slender and submerged hulls connected to an above-waterline deck structure via thin struts which are all that is in contact with the water surface. These thin struts, at the waterline, coupled with their submerged hulls farther away from the water surface dampen wave energy, reducing vertical accelerations and providing a smoother ride. This configuration allows SWATH vessels to navigate effectively in high sea states where traditional vessels would struggle. An extreme example of this would be oil rigs.

But why is stability so important?

It’s not just about being able to stay afloat, but staying operational – which is ostensibly the definition of Seakeeping The ability of a SWATH vessel’s ability to maintain data collection in high seas is particularly useful for offshore operations and natural capital assessment, as we still need to gather data in areas that are difficult to survey, with the often perilous North Sea as a perfect example.

With SWATH hull based designs minimising the vertical accelerations and hence slamming effect experienced by monohull vessels in rough seas, they are able to remain operational even in the toughest of conditions, and when this stability is coupled with autonomy, the capacity for continuous collection, no matter the weather.

Below we have identified four capabilities offered by fusing SWATH design with autonomous technology.

1. Precision and Safety: SWATH vessels provide a stable and controlled platform for launching and recovering equipment, such as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and autonomous surface vessels (ASVs). The reduced motion and superior seakeeping of SWATHs make these operations safer, enabling precise deployment with autonomous systems, and retrieval in challenging sea conditions.

2. Enhanced Workability: With the enhanced operational effectiveness offered by SWATH designs, and the enhanced operation capacities provided by autonomous systems, continuous workflow can be ensured. This capability is particularly valuable in offshore industries where the ability to operate in high sea states is crucial for efficient project execution, from border control to monitoring offshore infrastructure.

3. Increased Speed and Fuel Efficiency: The reduced wave resistance, at operational slow speeds and improved seakeeping of SWATH vessels result in enhanced speed and fuel efficiency. Add to this the removing of humans in the loop, these vessels can maintain their operational speeds even in rough seas, reducing transit times and operational costs, allowing humans to monitor operations at a safe distance.

4. Payload Capacity and Flexibility: The SWATH design plus autonomy allows for a larger deck area, enabling a versatile payload capacity and flexibility. This versatility is particularly valuable for offshore research and survey operations, where the transportation of equipment and supplies is essential.

As the maritime industry continues to evolve, the capabilities provided by SWATH hulls and autonomous solutions will play an increasingly significant role in advancing safety, efficiency, and productivity at sea, paving the way for new frontiers in maritime exploration and transportation.

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