The expanding scope of ship design practice


  • David Andrews Design Research Centre, Marine Research Group, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College London, UK



Ship Design Process, Ship Design Practice, Computer Aided Ship Design, AI, Machine Learning


As the former International Chair of IMDC, the initiator of the continuing series of IMDC State of Art (SoA) Reports and the lead author of most IMDC SoA Reports on design methodology from 1997 to 2018, the author has both pioneered and observed an increasingly broader scope in the practice of the design of particularly complex vessels.
The paper commences with reviewing some key publications, not just to recent IMDCs, that have tracked the manner in which “ship design” (in the broadest sense) has become more sophisticated – especially in the crucial early stages of design. The diversity of ship design practice, not just due to computer-based methods, is readily observable. Moreover, the impact of computer aided design in ship design has not just been to better analyse ship performance (e. g. in hydrodynamics, strength and ship infrastructure systems behaviour) but also in the increasing use of graphical tools and design methods to enable “better ship design”. In a growing number of, mainly, academic centres, but also in some government agencies and design consultancies, there is a clear desire to better understand how to design “ships” and to manage the ship design process, especially for the most complex and novel classes of vessels. In particular, the objectives being sought when conceptualising and synthesising a range of ship options (as part of the requirement elucidation approach) in an ever-increasing scoping of the relevant issues, amounts to developing a more holistic approach. This is not just due to an increasingly complex ship acquisition and ownership environment, but also due to environmental and socio-economic (especially system safety) concerns. Overlaying all this are the opportunities or the spectre of Artificial Intelligence (or perhaps more immediately those of Machine Learning) and its likely impact on engineering practice as well as those other professions in the “marine design enterprise”. The paper concludes by emphasising that while ship design has distinct differences, when compared with most other large scale engineering design practice, the lead ship design profession of the naval architect has somehow to deal with this expanding scope in the practice of “ship design”. This means the education and on the job development thrust must broaden if the ship design profession is not to be side-lined into acting as mere hull engineers. It is argued, such a specific role will be more vulnerable in an increasingly Machine Learning dominated future, than the holistic ship creating and systems architectural alternative. Finally an ambitious vision for future ship designers is given alongside a summary of the specific main contributions by the author to ship design methodology.




How to Cite

Andrews, D. (2024). The expanding scope of ship design practice. International Marine Design Conference.

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