Evolving ship stability for passenger safety

The passenger shipping industry must be willing to innovate and implement smart safety solutions
Evolving ship stability for passenger safety
The NAPA Loading Computer Type Four will help improve stability and safety onboard passenger ships, says Jussi Siltanen

By Jussi Siltanen |

Despite the many challenges that Covid-19 has presented, we’ve seen an industry showing great resilience and adaptability. One major element of this has been the drive to improve operations to enhance our sector’s already rigorous safety standards. Nevertheless, risks remain, and we must stay vigilant and willing to innovate and implement smart solutions that can further increase ship safety.

Ship stability has always been an integral aspect of safeguarding lives at sea and assets; the management and maintenance of a vessel’s intact and damage stability are key to ensuring total vessel safety whilst out at sea. The cruise industry recognises loading computers as one of the best ways for ship owners to manage ship stability, with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulation stating that for the purpose of providing operational information to the master for safe return to port after a flooding casualty, passenger ships constructed before 1 January 2014 must have either an onboard computer installed or shore-based support available.

In fact, most recently, the International Association of Class Societies (IACS) updated its requirements for vessel loading computers, stating that, from January 2020 all passenger carrying newbuilds must have a Type Four loading computer installed; existing passenger ships built before 2014 must also be upgraded, at the latest, by their first renewal survey after 1 January 2025.

Stability management has therefore been recognised as a core component of passenger vessel operations and an element which must continuously be evolved by the industry to encompass new vessel designs and calculations. Since the launch of NAPA’s first loading computer in 1993, which originated from collaboration with key stakeholders across the passenger sector, we have continued developing and evolving the wide range of calculations, including hydrostatics, intact stability, and ship longitudinal strength to increase not only the efficiency and safety of the passenger vessels, but  also ensure that ship owners are one step ahead of regulation.

Drawing on elements of our NAPA Loading Computer software – the most trusted stability solution for passenger vessels, and used by almost all the major cruise lines and ferry operators – and in line with impending regulation we have developed our most sophisticated stability solution yet, the NAPA Loading Computer Type Four. The new solution further enhances safety in flooding emergencies and provides a vessel’s master with more information to ensure a safe return to port. The NAPA Loading Computer Type Four also now calculates damage stability associated with an actual loading condition and/or actual flooding cases by using the direct application of user or sensor defined damage to enable safe return to port.

More specifically, and most significantly, the NAPA Loading Computer Type Four now also includes updates to a vessel’s automatic damage detection and watertight doors. Likewise, because the requirements from SOLAS – via IACS – have been implemented in class rules, damage stability functions and calculation results within a Type Four Loading Computer are now subject to class approval. The NAPA Loading Computer Type Four has gained approval of damage stability functions and is IACS Type Four compliant. It is also compliant with all the relevant International Maritime Organization circulars. In turn, to ensure that best practice is followed, and in line with the newly enforceable regulation, we will also now only deliver Type Four-compliant software for passenger ships.

Although the trajectory of passenger ship travel has momentarily slowed, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to enhance safety at sea. Not only to safeguard lives and assets, but to ensure our industry continues to be an attractive and prosperous transport option for years to come. The revised SOLAS and IACS regulation will make a major difference to passenger and crew safety on ferries, cruise liners, and other similar ships, and will play an integral part of evolving the shipping industry’s safety standards. With this in mind, and with the passenger ship sector starting to resume operations, it is imperative that vessel owners take the opportunity to stay one step ahead of regulation and enable the fleet of the future.

Jussi Siltanen is safety solutions product manager for NAPA

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