Role of Naval Architecture

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Role of Naval Architecture Through the Ages

Ships are one of the oldest forms of transport used by men. Over the time, their structure, functions and equipments have been subjected to constant evolution. These constant evolutions have been propelled by the ever changing patterns of world trade, the necessity of the economic alterations and the incessant advances in technology. Among these, technology has been a vital factor in providing opportunities to build larger, faster and safer ships.

Naval architecture has been an intrinsic part of the evolution of ships, which has been captivating and equally demanding at the same time. Naval architecture is a discipline that requires highest degree of discipline as well. It is demanding because there is large amount of capital investment that goes in the making of the ship and also because ship building is a risky job. Find out what role naval architecture play in ship construction.

Diversity demands

Only a busy port will depict the diversity in the structures of floating vessels. It is because of this diversity in the structure and function of ships that there arises a need in applying of different ways in constructing a modern ship. Moreover, the conditions and the functions of a particular ship also play a vital role in the making of the ship.

For example, there are fishing vessels, ranging from small fishing boats that operate daily to the deep ocean explorers that demand facilities for deep freezing their catches. Similarly, there are small coastal cargo carriers to extremely large cargo carriers (VLCC), drill ships for the explorations of gas, oil and minerals, and small as well as giant super-tankers that carry oil, gases and chemicals.

Apart from this, small tugs are used for towing, and dredgers and pilot boats are used for the proper functioning of the ports. For defence purpose, there are warships which ranges from huge aircraft carriers to frigates, whereas the huge bulk carriers carry grains, coal, ore and raw materials. Last but not the least, there are ferries as well as massive cruise liners that carry passengers to different corners of the world on long voyages. Thus, it can be seen that it is the variety of functions that demand the variety in the construction and design of ships. Naval architecture fulfils these demands.

What Drives the Demands?

As the structure and size of the ship vary, the demands also vary. How? Read on…

Let’s take an example of a large cruise liner. A large cruise liner is a whole township or a small city in itself. This means, it has several thousands of people onboard. As a result it requires electricity, air conditions, galleys, restaurants, recreation auditoriums etc. In order to accommodate all the necessities under one roof, the ship’s general layout must me so strong and impeccable that it can carry out its intended tasks effectively and economically. But that is not the end of the factors that need to be taken into consideration, for there is a crucial aspect that needs to be considered – the safety of the ship. As there are several thousands of people on board a ship, it is absolutely important that the ship is safe in all aspects. Thus, naval architecture helps in perfect ship construction according to demands.

Additional aspects to be taken into consideration

The kind of propulsion system used on a ship also plays an important role in the design and construction of the ship. In the past, the ships had sails which used wind for the propulsion of the ship, but nowadays all ships are driven by a mechanical propulsion system. The driving power can be generated by diesel engine, steam turbine, gas turbine, or some form of fuel cells. Including the propulsion system, there are many other systems on board the ship for its efficient working and it is therefore important that the ship’s layout conciliates with the various systems.

One more thing that is taken into consideration for designing a ship is that not all the ports have the facility to accommodate all types and sizes of ships. This means that the geography and the depth of water at the port might abstain large ships from entering inside. Also, not all ports have the facilities for loading and discharging all types of cargo. For example, not all ports have the facility of gantry cranes for the loading and unloading of containers. This means that a container ship will never be sent to a port where there are no facilities of gantry cranes. This ensures that ships spend far less time in loading and unloading, cargoes remain more secure and most importantly port fees are reduced.

Thus naval architecture deals with the whole process of designing and construction of ship, keeping various aspects in mind. The sole purpose is to create the best possible ship to meet the operator’s needs by keeping the ship’s design flexible, safe and one which is able to adjust considerable level of risk. Naval architecture thus provides a foolproof design, taking all the possibilities into consideration to reduce the consequences of an unavoidable accident and keep the risk factor as low as possible.

Also, while architecting a ship, an important factor that is taken into consideration is the effects of dangerous and toxic cargoes in case there is an accidental spillage due to collision or human error. There are already stringent rules made pertaining to the adverse effects of toxic cargoes on environment that cannot be compromised and thus it’s absolutely necessary to abide by them and take them into consideration while designing and constructing a ship.

It is hoped that the previous paragraphs will provide the readers with a general overview of naval architecture as a disciplined and demanding engineering field.


Introduction to Naval architecture : E.C Tupper.(2001)

Basic ship theory : Rawson, K. J and Tuppen (1994)