A ship is at its most vulnerable when it is partly loaded, because uneven distribution of weight can place huge stresses on the vessel, which can upset stability, or even jeopardise its structural integrity. Clearly then, loading and unloading has to be managed in a controlled process, and completed as quickly and efficiently as possible. This precise technique relies greatly on ballast tanks, alternately filling or emptying them to balance out the weight of the cargo as it is loaded or unloaded.
A ship loading and stability system carries out the delicate task of controlling and monitoring the task as it progresses, allowing for changing conditions and a range of other factors that may arise. Crucially, it carries out continuous draft, trim and heel calculations, and ensures structural strength and stability are within safe limits for that type and class of ship.
Before all of this begins, a planning phase is carried out, whereby the system outlines a schedule to plan the quickest, safest and most efficient loading operation. With input from a large number of onboard sensors when it initiates the loading process, adjustments can be made as it is executed to ensure the safety and stability of the craft.
The system performs another vital role once it has left dock and initiated its journey. It monitors and maintains optimal trim and depth, thereby minimising extraneous motion in the water. This again safeguards the structure of the ship and returns additional value by maximising fuel efficiency.
As this is a critical system, the ship loading and stability system must gain type approval. Before it can be installed in any ship, the system needs to gain marine certification such as DNV 2.4, IEC 60945 and IACS 10 to show evidence of satisfactory operation in environments normally to be expected on board. This includes such things as vibration testing, dry heat testing and salt mist testing, to name a few.
Additionally, it is vital that marine computer equipment is highly reliable and has low susceptibility to failure during use. Fanless operation, and components with no moving parts such as SSD storage rather than conventional disk drives, minimise the need for maintenance. Normally space restraints mean that there is no access to spares, and the likelihood of having no access to technical support while at sea, mean that this is of vital importance.