Ship’s captains and officers often report a substantial lack of the information necessary to manage an emergency situation onboard a ship resulting from a leak and subsequent flooding of the ship. Will it stay afloat? Is there enough time left to abandon ship? These questions are answered by the EDSS project (Emergency Decision Support System), led by MarineLAB, a Slovenian d.o.o, in partnership with SEASTEMA S.p.A., a Fincantieri group company that is a leader in marine automation systems. The project, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund of the Regional Operational Programme of Friuli Venezia Giulia, also involved the University of Trieste, which operated through the Integrated Ship Design Laboratory (ISD Lab) and the Maritime Technology Cluster FVG, which coordinated and disseminated the results. Launched on 5 May 2017, EDSS improves the ability to make correct decisions in the management of emergency situations resulting from a leak and the consequent flooding of a ship. The development of this software was in response to there being a lack of such information necessary for the handling of such situations; something that was also recognised by the IMO, which had made it obligatory for large passenger ships built after 2014 to install on-board stability software that can optimize actions in response to damage.
However, current stability-monitoring software does not provide an effective decision support system in the event of flooding. This situation is a phenomenon that evolves over time, and often the riskiest conditions are hidden in the transitional phases. Thus, only a tool that can simulate the progressive evolution of the scenario as a function of time can answer the questions that a commander will be asking after a collision or grounding. EDSS answers these questions from the earliest stages of the emergency. Specifically, the instrument provides support to the “damage control team” with continuous monitoring of the stability of the ship, allowing the detection and assessment of damage and its progressive evolution. This makes it easier to take countermeasures by making it possible to predict their effect on stability and assess the consequences of actions that have already been taken. Born with the objective of developing an active decision support tool, that can provide information in real time so as to ensure the safety of ships in emergency conditions, EDSS mainly addresses the operational priorities of the various stakeholders (shipowners, shipyards and maritime industry) regarding the updating of international standards aimed at increasing ships’ active and passive safety. It should be remembered that the modelling of leaks is based on hypotheses and is influenced by uncertainties and unpredictable events, which could lead to a divergence between the simulation and the actual situation of the process of progressive flooding. In addition, the interested parties (software companies, shipyards, ship operators) have different visions and objectives regarding on-board decision support systems, and are often opposed. EDSS provides an innovative compromise solution between the expectations of the different stakeholders, introducing a new approach to avoid the risk associated with uncertainties. The reliability of the simulation is continuously verified based on feedback from the crew and an automatic system, which improves the reliability of the system while also increasing the crew’s awareness of the ship’s safety.
In the event that the software has trouble reproducing the actual evolution of events, the system is programmed to provide additional decision support, so as to detect any undetected water inputs and calculate the final equilibrium situation. EDSS can therefore improve the safety of the ship even in the worst emergencies, helping the captain to make the best decisions for the protection of the passengers and crew, and that of the ship.