Composite bulk carrier hull

Fires and explosions are the third largest cause of vessel casualties and have resulted in 112 large vessel losses during the past decade. A single loss could see damages in excess of $1bn. Although steel does not burn, it is a good conductor of heat and therefore spreads fire to adjacent compartments.

Composite materials are of low density, low weight, high strength, are non-heat conductive, and highly resistant to corrosion and fire.[1,2,3] Composites offer an even higher strength-to-weight ratio than traditional wood or steel methods, and they require lower skill levels to produce an acceptable hull finish on a semi-industrial scale.[4] Carbon fiber structures are on the average 20%–30% lighter than even glass fiber, but are more expensive.[5,6]

The global composite materials market is valued over $40bn and is growing at 15-20% per year, and is expected to grow even further as the cost of composites lower.

When will a bulk carrier be constructed with a fire-proof composite hull?

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[1] Thomas, G. (2020), Heat Insulation and Fire Resistance using Composite Materials
[2] EURAILmag Issue 27, Fire-resistant Composite Materials
[3] US Patent Application Publication, 29 November 2007.
[4] Johnson, T., (2018), A List of Composite Materials In Boats
[5] Gardiner, G., (2019), Withstanding fire without the weight
[6] Håkansson, M., Johnson, E., Ringsberg, J. (2017), Cost and weight of composite ship structures: A parametric study based on Det Norske Veritas rules

By Matthew J. Spaniol