A strong future for laser scanning in passenger shipping

Matthew Jensen outlines how Fraiserline’s scanning technology benefits cruise and ferry operators
A strong future for laser scanning in passenger shipping

By Matthew Jensen |

Architecture and laser scanning firm Fraiserline helps passenger ship operators by overseeing refits, refurbishments and general fleet maintenance across various brands and ship classification types. We deliver various services, ranging from designing passenger interiors to resolving the operational aspects of ship fleets, including maintenance and change-of-use requirements.

Undertaking a typical ship project – whether on an old or new vessel – is always a rewarding challenge. In my experience, no two projects are ever the same. The refits to older vessels usually require updates to the ship’s infrastructure, services and regulatory classification and can lead to the vessel being in dry dock for a significant period of time. Project professionals are aware of the time limitations when a ship is in dry dock and good organisation, budgeting, management and planning is paramount.

However, there is one common challenge that often occurs prior to carrying out any design-related activities in the refit or refurbishment process. Before or after they have been appointed to the project, the professional team must undertake a series of ship visits to interpret the layout and condition of the vessel. It is absolutely essential to carry out these tasks in the strategic definition stages in order to determine feasibility, budget and procurement methods. At this stage, the project team will analyse the existing state of the ship using photos, documented observations and mark-up drawings in line with the given brief from the client. After the design team is appointed, further onboard surveys are carried out including measured surveys, intrusive inspections, condition reports, inventories, audits and specialist marine investigations.

On a large cruise ship, these processes can take weeks or even months. This can be concerning in terms of efficiency, as some design teams are required to return to the ship to obtain further ship data, measurements or inspection-related activities. This process increases costs associated with international travel and consultancy time, and also causes the cruise operator to lose saleable onboard accommodation. It is a common issue that the lack of existing ship information such as “as-built” accurate drawings, product breakdowns, shipyard data and maintenance records pose hugely risky and expensive, meaning further extensive surveys are needed.

Digital technologies are now being used in the construction industry to improve efficiency, productivity and quality assurance. One of the major developments is the use of laser scanning or reality capture. This technology has become more relevant than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic as stakeholders have been seeking reliable methods for remote inspection and monitoring. Our business strategy has been to expand our offering to introduce high-definition surveying (HDS) laser scanning to improve the former practices with survey, inventory and inspection procedures, and to refine the quality of the audit/data acquisition process. The biggest challenge was for Fraiserline to overcome any limitations or constraints around the use within marine environments. As ships move – and potentially shudder – we had to ensure that laser scanning was practical and viable. We carried out trials on smaller and older vessels and noticed slight interference in areas with high vibration, such as engine casings, but this was less of an issue on modern and larger fleets.

Our scanning approach is traditional, and we use terrestrial instrumentation, but we do have resources for more “on-the-fly” sensors when it comes to complex, quick or limited access environments. As the surveyor scans the onboard environments using the equipment, the system automatically optimises the data in real time, however we also carry out post-survey verifications to check the data and correct any tolerance issues before any data can be formally issued. With our technology partners in place, the level of detail and granularity of 3D-captured information is truly remarkable. In some cases, the clarity of the data has allowed us to remotely inspect the ship interiors and report on defects including carpet wear, corrosion and warped deckheads. The customer use cases have been extremely diverse across our network, and most have been relative to proposed modifications to ships or vessels, but we welcome any challenge.

Laser scanning is becoming the essential process for the digitalisation of marine vessels. We have been integral with offering digital-twin and building information modelling capabilities for the maritime industry and to get the full benefit of these innovations, the existing ship and marine environments must be converted to digital using reality capture.

Scan data can help to identify defects onboard, as well as to capture the condition of the asset, provide an inventory of onboard equipment, and to create an audit trail for the life of the vessel. Our scanning technology also permits engineers to access areas of the ship that are confined, off limits or dangerous, thereby limiting risk to personnel. We have had some other interesting examples of specific requirements. One company asked us to scan the scrubber and exhaust system on a large passenger ship to determine the best method for removal, clearance and replacement.

Another company asked for all of the guest cabins to be scanned so that the management team can forecast the refit schedule and create an inventory of all equipment, furniture, fittings and interior types. Our most recent briefing has been to scan a large ship hull in dry dock for the engineering team to closely inspect any structural defects or faults with the propulsion system. This will eventually form an audit trail of inspections over time, so that the engineers are able to overlay the various data sets, as well as compare with the original ship (newbuild) 3D model and monitor any clashes or dilapidation of the hull periodically.

We have embraced scanning technologies as being fully universal to requirements, from technical engineering, owner, naval classification, maintenance and design standpoints. With the granularity of scan data becoming extremely high definition, we are confident the technology will add value to the maritime refurbishment, design and engineering professions. Our other innovations are to combine this with global navigation satellite system positioning tools to help shipyards track progress on newbuild vessels. With other industry partners providing good virtual reality and artificial intelligence-based systems, the digital influence on the maritime industry has never been so enticing. Now that we have Maritime 4.0 on the horizon, our biggest ambition is to support the industry by converting the physical assets into digital assets for the benefit of the sector.

Matthew Jensen is managing director of Fraiserline

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