Research Impact


UCL’s maritime research leads to optimised performance and reduced emissions

UCL Maritime Engineering research on improved ship safety, stability and performance, resulted in the US Navy building a fleet of 13 Independence Class ships, and shipbuilders using greener designs.

Aerial shot of ships in the sea

12 April 2022

Good ship design is important to ensure ships are safe, comfortable, economic, and sustainable. UCL Maritime Engineering research focuses on improved ship engineering for defence, commercial, and complex ship designs.

A UCL team has developed new design concepts for complex ships, built and implemented computer models for better ship design, and reduced waste emissions from the shipping industry. 

The team revolutionised trimaran designs for commercial and naval shipping, developing computer models to predict performance from hydrodynamic and structural perspectives. They worked with the Atlantic Center for the Innovative Design and Control of Ships (ACCeSS), and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) to design and test better multi-hulled vessels.  

They demonstrated the value of using the multihull design, with its high-speed characteristics and large deck areas for carrying cargo and equipment, for ferries and naval vessels. They showed up to a 70% improvement on performance compared to monohulls, leading to the US Navy commissioning a fleet of 13 Independence Class trimarans of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). 

Developing ship design  

The UCL team flipped the design process from an "outside-in" hull form focus to an "inside-out" architectural approach, with a balance between weight, space, and stability. The new Design Building Block approach (DBB) uses the internal and upper deck architectural demands, bringing critical operational and human considerations to the fore, providing a stronger basis for cost and production.  

The DBB approach has been used to develop ship designs for organisations and companies including the UK Ministry of Defence, BMT Ship Design, the UK Shipbuilders & Ship repairers Association, the Canadian Defence Department, the US Navy Office of Naval Research and the Columbian Navy. 

Improving the safety of offshore systems 

The team also focused on the safety aspects of offshore systems design and risk assessment. They worked with large manufacturers such as Daewoo to improve the design of floating production storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs). Working with ferry builder Incat, they informed changes in the bow shape of Incat vessels to reduce the wave loads and improve passenger comfort. 

Contributing to a greener environment 

Through collaborations with key stakeholders, UCL research has helped reduce the environmental impact of the shipping industry by providing tools that support the development of low carbon technology and better waste recovery.  

The improved computational models for ship designs, technology developments, and low carbon technology were amalgamated into GloTraM – UCL Energy Institute’s (UCL-EI) techno-social-economic model of the global shipping industry. GloTraM influenced the shipping industry through changes in transport demand, macroeconomics (such as fuel, carbon price, and newbuild price inflation), and the availability of technology and regulation.  

Professor Giles Thomas (UCL Department of Mechanical Engineering) said: "Global shipping currently accounts for approximately 3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The UCL team has helped reduce the environmental impact of the shipping industry by developing technical models of ship performance."

Research synopsis

Research into new maritime structures and systems exploited in novel designs by commercial and naval designers and builders 

Maritime Engineering research at UCL has focussed on improved safety, stability and performance for ships which has led the US Navy to build a fleet of 13 Independence Class ships, construction companies to improve safety on offshore shipping platforms, and shipbuilders to use greener designs to reduce carbon emissions.  

Project team: Professor Giles Thomas, Professor David Andrews, Professor Richard Bucknall, Professor Jeom Paik, Professor Paul Wrobel, Professor Alistair Greig, Dr Rachel Pawling, Dr John Calleya