Solutions that transcend industrial boundaries
7 November 2019

Solutions that transcend industrial boundaries

At PACIFIC 2019, SYSTRA Scott Lister’s Technical Director - Vince Capizzi, explained how over a 100 years of mathematical problem solving can be applied to improving safety at sea

How can we efficiently model the safe evacuation of people from a ship with limited egress within a dynamically changing environment?

Like most industries ship builders and operators are required to ensure the safe, timely and effective evacuation of people in an emergency. With lessons learned from the civil building sector, Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations continue to evolve requiring increasing certainty and assurance for maximum evacuation times.

Development of the digital shipyard and increasing complexity within naval vessels requires manual and paper-based assessments to be automated ensuring that certainty and confidence are not eroded. Improvements in regulations require increasing complexity like considering dynamic changes in the environment for example: fire, smoke, structural damage and different concentrations of people.

There are several approaches and tools that are relatively easy to model the ship, egress routes, constraints and movement of people. The challenge is accurately determining the most efficient evacuation times, considering continual changes within the environment.

Analogous challenges for today’s engineers?

Finding a solution that already exists
When faced with a complex problem engineers and technologist can model the problem, inputs and environment and then look for innovative ways to ensure specific outcomes from a range of predetermined inputs. However, each new aspect or change introduces a probability of error, the more complex and innovative the solution the greater the likelihood and impact of errors, and there is a tipping point where the number and type of errors means the proposed solution is no longer viable.

Alternatively, we can find a solution that already exists and apply it to our current situation, which is exactly how Vince approached this issue. In the 1800s an Irish mathematician Sir William Hamilton and British mathematician Thomas Penyngton Kirkman invented a game called the Travelling Salesman Problem (TSP) where since the 1930s mathematicians have tried to find the most efficient way to for the salesperson to cross through a number of points. By considering these points to be stairways, corridors and doors within a ship, the algorithms used to solve the TSP can be applied to finding the most expeditious escape routes on a ship. Constraints can then easily be applied by changing the availability and capacity of each point. In this case, by applying network models used to solve TSP SYSTRA Scott Lister can automatically test of ship designs to increase safety and ensure compliance with international regulations.

Transcending Industrial Boundaries
The use of network models developed to solve the TSP, to determine egress routes and exit times was presented at the Pacific International Maritime Conference 2019 and gained interest amongst the maritime and other Defence and related industries.

SYSTRA’s approach of connected teams, routinely transferring people between industries and knowledge management means that this approach is applied amongst cross disciplines including autonomous transport and Smart Cities.

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