Miniature Origami Swimming Robot

By Wendy Laursen 2015-06-05 00:17:59

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have demonstrated an untethered miniature origami robot that self-folds, walks, swims and dissolves. From a flat 2D sheet with a magnet on it, the robot folds itself up in a matter of seconds, zips around via magnets on land or water and then gets dunked into a tank of acetone to dissolve completely.

The robot consists of a magnet and PVC sandwiched between laser-cut structural layers (polystyrene or paper). It weighs 0.31g, is 1.7cm long and can travel at speeds of up to four centimeters a second.

In forming itself, heat is applied which causes the PVC to contract and fold along pre-cut layers. The robot is powered by a permanent magnet motor. Its interaction with four electromagnetic coils placed under it provide the energy used for movement, although the magnets don’t move the robot directly. Rather they vibrate it slightly in different directions, and the built-in magnet keeps it moving steadily in one direction.

The robot can be steered through water when the external magnetic field is strong enough.

The MIT researchers haven’t yet added sensors or other payloads, but the robot is designed for use in tight, unreachable spaces. Using different construction materials it could be further enhanced to dissolve in water. The attraction for this biodegradable self-destruction is potential medical applications inside the body.

MIT has already demonstrated a robot cheetah that can run and jump without the need for cables. MIT researchers have also developed a robotic fish that can move and change direction as quickly as a real fish, a soft arm that can grasp objects and slither like a snake, robotic sheep, origami flowers that can open and change colors and robotic ducks that fold into shape by being heated in an oven.


Warning on Failure to Manage Risk

By MarEx 2015-06-05 00:57:33

A new survey from Moore Stephens has revealed that levels of sound enterprise and business risk management are currently satisfactory in the shipping industry. But the international accountant and shipping adviser warns that companies which fail to embed effective risk management procedures into their daily activities are likely to pay a high price in today’s tightly regulated and highly competitive industry.

The inaugural Moore Stephens Shipping Risk Survey, which will be updated annually, sought to gauge how effectively enterprise and business risks are being managed in the shipping industry and to analyze how key risks are being handled by companies. Respondents rated the extent to which enterprise and business risk management is contributing to the success of their organization at an average 6.9 out of a possible score of 10.0. Over a quarter of respondents returned a rating of 8.0, while almost three-quarters put the figure at more than 5.0 out of 10.0.

A third of respondents felt that enterprise and business risk was being managed effectively by their organizations, while 37 percent confirmed that such risk was managed by means of discussion without formal documentation. Overall, 42 percent of respondents noted that risk was documented by the use of spreadsheets or written reports. Internally developed software was employed by 13 percent of respondents to manage and document risk, as opposed to the 6 percent who used third-party software. Other methods cited by respondents as a means of managing risk ranged from “industry data” to “hope”.

One respondent noted, “We are highly focused, but a shipowner can only evaluate closely up until the moment when the ships are ordered or purchased. Once the bet is placed, Lady Luck takes a hand. The three most important things are timing, timing and timing.” Another said the best way to minimize risk was to “avoid known high-risk clients who could seriously affect the rest of your business.”

Some 72 percent of respondents felt that the senior managers in their organizations had a high degree of involvement in enterprise and business risk management, as opposed to the 18 percent who said senior management’s involvement was limited to “periodic interest if risks materialize.” While eight percent of respondents said that senior management “acknowledged but had a limited involvement in” enterprise / risk management, just two percent said senior management had no involvement whatsoever.

Demand trends were deemed by the greatest number of respondents (19 percent) to pose the highest level of risk to their organization over the next 12 months, closely followed by competition (18 percent). The cost and availability of finance featured in third place, at 13 percent, while operating costs and tonnage supply each figured at 10 percent. Other factors cited as posing a high level of risk included political and economic developments and international sanctions, cyber security, counter-party creditworthiness and technical breakdown. One respondent was convinced that demand for shipping would increase, but another was far less confident about the availability of competent crews to man the ships.

Respondents to the survey felt that the level of risk posed by most of the factors which impacted their business would remain largely unchanged over the next 12 months, with the exception of demand trends, the supply of competent crew and tonnage supply, which were perceived to have the potential for increased risk. Issues beyond the control of shipping also figured in the replies from respondents, one of whom emphasized, “Geopolitical issues will keep influencing the market economy, which will make business unstable and lead to lack of sustainability.”

Michael Simms, a partner in the shipping industry group at Moore Stephens, says: “It is good to see that respondents to the survey rated at almost seven out of 10 the extent to which enterprise and business risk management is contributing to the success of their organizations. It is encouraging, also, to see the healthy level of senior management involvement in the management of risk. But the figures need to be higher still for shipping to be able to claim that it is effectively managing risk to the best of its ability.

“You cannot take the risk out of shipping. It is part of the tradition of the industry, and one of the factors which attract investors. For too long, however, too many companies have failed to follow a joined-up risk management process, and insufficient resources and time have been devoted to risk management, creating difficulties and increasing the risk of business failure.

“Risk is only likely to increase in the shipping industry. Some of the risks are well-recognized and traditionally well-handled, such as those arising from competitive pressures. But other risks are of an emerging nature, such as cyber-security, while others still, for example the financial stability of counterparties, fraud and money-laundering, tend to fluctuate in their level of severity with market conditions and geographic location.

“Shipping cannot afford to under-estimate its exposure to risk. The banks, who are now starting to show a renewed appetite for shipping finance, and the private equity investors who have over the past two years or so filled the investment void created by the exit of more traditional shipping finance, will be looking to work with risk-aware shipping businesses, to ensure that their money is in safe hands. So, too, will counter-parties and other third-parties.

“Last year’s bankruptcy filing of Denmark’s OW Bunker set alarm bells ringing, attended as it was by references to major risk management and fraud losses and to unrecoverable credit. Shipping is also vulnerable to an increasing level of IT-related risk and is in some respects operating in a changed world and to a different risk profile – all this, moreover, at a time of increasingly stringent regulatory controls, which bring with them serious cost implications.

“Given the level of accumulated knowledge within the industry, and the continued increase in technological innovation, there is no excuse for shipping not to manage its exposure to risk. Companies which fail to monitor risk intelligently and systematically, to oversee the effectiveness of risk controls, and to embed risk management into their daily activities, are likely to pay a high price.”


The Supersonic Maritime Option

By Harry Valentine 2015-06-05 01:08:18

During the mid-1940s, Air Force pilots encountered a strange phenomenon during steep dive maneuvers, like some kind of an invisible barrier. A decade later, aircraft designers were busy seeking to develop an airplane capable of passing through the invisible barrier – the sound barrier.

Some 50 years later, a research team sought to develop a high-speed car capable of passing through that same invisible barrier while travelling on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the U.S. A three-wheeled jet-powered car actually passed through the sound barrier on two successive runs.

Now, an Australian boat enthusiast announced his interest in developing a boat capable of exceeding the speed of sound, possibly on a calm lake in Australia.

The lateral thinking approach would seek to combine known precedents from supersonic flight and the supersonic car with a known maritime technology – the wing-in-ground (WIG) effect craft that rides above the water surface like a sea bird gliding above the water surface. When in low-elevation flight, sea bird wing tips push an air stream downward and some of that airstream rebounds off the water surface as an updraft to help keep the seabird aloft. The same approach keeps WIG-craft aloft, and that concept may be combined with precedents in supersonic flight and supersonic ground transport to explore a possible option of supersonic maritime operation.

Designers of the supersonic car had to confront the phenomenon of the vehicle generating a shockwave as it exceeded the sound barrier. Repeated laboratory investigation and testing of supersonic aircraft revealed a sudden rise in air pressure across the shockwave that travelled with the vehicle.

With supersonic ground transport, the sudden pressure rise would occur around the vehicle and especially below the vehicle where the underside profile had to redirect the high-pressure air up and around the side. Textbook theory advises that if the vehicle is travelling 20 percent faster than the speed of sound, or Mach 1.2, the (absolute) air pressure across the shockwave would rise by 50 percent.

Theoretically, a WIG-craft built with a supersonic cross-sectional profile that includes swept-back wings would generate a shockwave that would envelope it as it exceeds the speed of sound. Since it would fly close to the water surface, the shockwave would cause a zone of lower-speed (Mach 0.8422), high-pressure air to develop between the underside of the wings and the water surface, with air rebounding between the wings and water surface.

The dynamic of air under the wings offers a possible updraft capable of carrying the weight of a high-speed WIG-craft travelling at low supersonic speed (Mach 1.2). On the top side, high-pressure air would rise upward and rearward relative to the WIG-craft, otherwise exerting minimal downward force on the wings.

Worldwide, a fraternity of interested people are involved doing research into future possibilities for WIG-craft technology, many of them building scale models or small versions of WIG-craft. The present discussion focuses on a relatively narrow wingspan with extreme length of wing, or extended-length wing chord measurement relative to the fuselage. It is a configuration that could be lengthened with a swept-back profile at the leading edge of the wings, perhaps with a rectangular ‘intake’ to the underside of the wings to ensure a high-pressure, low-speed zone of air and a supersonic profile at the bow section. There is much precedent for WIG-craft researchers to use as they explore the possibility of a supersonic version of the technology.

A previous article suggested that it would be possible to fly WIG-craft that include landing gear and carry freight between coastal airports. Supersonic WIG-craft could operate between the same coastal airports. At subsonic speeds, WIG-craft offer the prospect of burning less fuel than conventional aircraft. On extended westbound flight, conventional aircraft have to fly into powerful headwinds known as the jet-stream, while near the ocean surface the effect of the jet-stream is far less powerful, even non-existent depending on local, low-elevation wind direction. While winds may blow in one direction at low elevation at a location, more powerful higher elevation winds may blow at much higher speed in the opposite direction above the exact same location.

If the Australian adventurer who seeks to develop a boat capable of supersonic speeds were to consider a WIG-craft, he could set a precedent for future commercial development involving passenger transportation.

In the future, it may be possible for a supersonic WIG-craft to travel between the coastal airports of Los Angeles and Sydney at a speed of Mach 1.2 and with comparable fuel consumption to a commercial airliner flying into a more powerful headwind. It offers the possibility of reducing the 14-hour flight to a 10-hour voyage close to and above the ocean. There are several possible routes between coastal airports across the Asia-Pacific region where supersonic maritime transport may be a future option. – MarEx

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.


Mass Rescue Operations Library Launched

By MarEx 2015-06-05 01:18:41

Two significant products to help global maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) services have been launched by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) at the World Maritime Rescue Congress.

The first are Rescue Boat Guidelines, developed from more than 2,000 contributions saved in a central database, and the second is the Mass Rescue Operations (MRO) library which complements the IMRF’s MRO workshop package.

The Rescue Boat Guidelines (RBG) enables users to go online and, after identifying the scope of activity they wish to undertake, to generate a report giving guidance on equipment, training and other procedures recommended by the IMRF.

IMRF CEO, Bruce Reid, said: “The RBG is guidance: we know that rescue is undertaken in a variety of craft. The ability to filter out areas that are not relevant to an organization will help provide manageable lists of recommended actions that will not overload users with too much information.

“After filtering there is a priority list of recommendations, rated against a risk matrix. This will help organizations to target development in areas our experts view as being of highest risk.”

The MRO online library – which is dynamic and user friendly – is organized around a series of guidance papers developed by an IMRF subject-matter expert group led by David Jardine-Smith.

This guidance draws on lessons learned in maritime mass rescue incidents of all kinds, in exercises and drills and at the IMRF’s Gothenburg series of conferences.

The IMRF’s guidance is backed up by incident and exercise reports and guidance published by the IMO and other experts, including the United States Coast Guard. It is also published as an eBook and is available here.

The library supports the development and testing of MRO planning and training, and complements the IMRF’s MRO workshops, which enable discussion by relevant organizations of this most difficult of SAR subjects.


Singapore Takes Lead in Sustainability Reporting

By MarEx 2015-06-05 01:27:23

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has achieved a first in the maritime industry and public sector with its inaugural Sustainability and Integrated Report titled “Towards a Future Ready Maritime Singapore”. The report follows the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G4’s Comprehensive Guidelines for Sustainability Reporting as well as Integrated Reporting adhering to the International Integrated Reporting Council’s (IIRC) Framework.

For Financial Year 2014, MPA has departed from its previous reporting format and adopted a more holistic approach in reporting its performance to its stakeholders, covering both internal and external stakeholders comprising its customers and partners, suppliers and vendors as well as its employees.

This shift reflects the move by MPA to adopt a more integrated approach in discharging its roles and responsibilities, whereby beyond promoting and regulating the maritime industry and ensuring the smooth operations at the port, it will also champion broader efforts with the maritime community in ensuring the maritime industry creates a positive impact on society, economy and environment.

Recent initiatives include setting up the MPA Sustainability Office last year to drive programs such as the Maritime Singapore Green Initiative (MSGI) in encouraging more members of the shipping community to adopt eco-friendly ship designs and construction and operations. The office has also spearheaded initiatives such as the installation of solar panels at MPA’s piers and facilities, use of more energy efficient lighting at its premises, promotion of recycling, as well as driving the safety, risk and sustainability management initiatives for the maritime industry such as through the Singapore Registry of Ships Forum and Enterprise Risk Management Forum.

Andrew Tan, Chief Executive of MPA, said, “MPA is proud to be among the first public sector agencies to achieve this significant milestone with our inaugural Sustainability and Integrated Report. As one of the world’s busiest ports and a leading international maritime center, it is important that MPA takes the lead in promoting good practices within the maritime community that will enhance our position as a clean, efficient and safe port. We hope the maritime community will continue to support MPA’s initiatives as we work towards building a Future Ready Maritime Singapore that is competitive as it is sustainable.”

Paul Druckman, CEO, International Integrated Reporting Council said, “I congratulate MPA on the publication of their first integrated report and for their leadership in embarking on their journey. Companies in the maritime sector around the world, and especially port authorities, should use this as a leading example for corporate reporting in the sector, and I urge them to follow MPA’s example by raising the quality of their reporting to this high standard. MPA’s report provides relevant information about the company, its corporate structure, strategic themes, performance and operations in a visually appealing way. It is a further example of the innovation in corporate reporting emerging from South East Asia and Singapore in particular.”

MPA, as an early mover towards Sustainability and Integrated Reporting, hopes to encourage companies in the maritime industry and organizations in the public sector to follow suit. With its holistic and systems-wide perspective, Integrated Reporting resonates with MPA’s philosophy that the sum of the whole is greater than its individual parts. MPA therefore values its close partnership with its stakeholders and believes that working together is essential to tackling many of the complex challenges facing the industry today. MPA continues to score highly on the Pro-Enterprise Ranking Survey for its business-friendly practices and this initiative will take the efforts further.

The report is available here.


Chinese Yard Starts Building Titanic Replica

By Wendy Laursen 2015-06-05 01:52:46

China Daily reports that the construction of a replica Titanic is now underway. The lifesize replica is expected to be complete by August 2017 and open to the public in October 2017.

Shipbuilder Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group, a Chinese State-run shipbuilder, is undertaking the one billion yuan ($161.3 million) project. Sichuan-based company Seven Star Energy Investment Group is reportedly providing the funds.

China Daily reports that Su Shaojun, chairman of Seven Star, said that he wanted, through the reconstruction – to share and spread the spirit of the Titanic -love and self-sacrifice.

The replica will be the centrepiece of a theme park expected to attract tourists from around the world.

Su also stated that Seven Star has launched the Titanic Foundation which aims to provide assistance to shipwreck accident victims. Three percent of ticket sales and one percent of the theme park’s income will go to the foundation.

Seven Star is in talks with U.S.-based designers to help them with layout details.

The replica will be permanently moored on Daying Qi river in Sichuan province where the park is located, but visitors will be able to experience the infamous iceberg collision via high-tech simulation.

The project was first announced in January 2014, and a limited number of 5,000 tickets are expected to go on sale in June.


Mystery over oil spill in Indonesia

Enigma surrounds an oil spill that occurred in Indonesia’s Penyu Bay on 20 May.
Until today, no one can say for certain what caused the oil spill.
Indonesia’s state-owned oil company Pertamina initially thought the oil leak occurred when product tanker Martha Petrol, which had been trading in