EU project develops balloon-based ship rescue system

suzy 344FEBRUARY 20, 2013 — An EU-funded research project known as SuSy (Surfacing System for Ship Recovery) is developing a balloon-based rescue system to be used for merchant ships in emergency situations. Applications would include preventive installations on ships with hazardous cargo, rapid stabilization of capsized ships by coast guard and other rescue squads and recovery of sunken ships.

The SuSy consortium, which is led by BMT, has recently completed a successful set of sea trials at the Chalkis shipyard in Greece.

SuSy utilizes Kevlar-reinforced balloons that can be rapidly deployed and inflated to provide extra buoyancy.

The consortium successfully tested two modes of deployment:

  • Internal, where balloons installed in protective covers within the double-bottomed test compartment were inflated, keeping it afloat until repairs or other emergency measures could be carried out.
  • Salvage, where external balloons and gas generator packs were attached, providing support sub-surface and allowing the test compartment to be recovered to the surface.

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Right: SuSy test compartment

The consortium has also developed a third concept using rapidly deployable internal balloons to create curtains that prevent capsize of roll on roll off passenger vessels by sub-dividing the car deck stopping water movement. Simulations have been conducted but this system has not been subject to live tests.

BMT says that the technology could help minimize the risk of major loss of life at sea by counteracting the effects of water ingress and preventing damaged or unstable ships from sinking, .

Rory Doyle, Senior Research Scientist at BMT Group, said: "The potential environmental, safety and financial benefits of SuSy are enormous, providing us with the first practical tools to stabilize or resurface ships in an emergency."

The SuSy project is funded by the EU's FP7 Framework for Research and Technological Development. The consortium consists of researchers from nine organizations:

BMT Group Ltd., U.K.

EADS Astrium, Germany

BALance Technology Consulting, Germany

DSB - Deutsche Schlauchboot GmbH, Germany

Hellenic Center for Marine Research, Greece

National Technical Universitity of Athens, Greece

Bureau Veritas, France

DCNS, France

University of Strathclyde, U.K.

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