Putting seafarer comfort first

Ship designs need to put more emphasis on how the environment can best support the crew

By Yahaya Sanusi and Rangel Vassilev

The pandemic and resulting crew change crisis thrust seafarers into the spotlight in 2020 and has led to increased public awareness of the harsh conditions seafarers may face. At the same time, we see growing demand from customers, investors, and others for transparent and sustainable supply chains that address human rights concerns throughout – including transportation and logistics.

To move cargo takes a team; without one, cargo will remain idle, supply chains will fail, and the world will all but stop spinning. Therefore, the comfort, security, and wellbeing of seafarers is essential and, arguably, more important than the carrying capacity of a vessel. This is what AAL has focused on with the development, design, and construction of its newest vessels.

The new AAL vessels have crew living quarters at the front of the vessel, not placed towards the stern as is traditional.

There are a multitude of reasons for this – design choice, including improved visibility and cargo carrying capacity, for example – but the comfort it can bring seafarers has been key in cementing this decision.

AAL, in co-operation with a class society, is optimising the shape of the hull for these newbuilds with the target of reducing vessel motion in seaways. The team at the class society are currently analysing hundreds of calculations and simulations covering a diverse range of scenarios and possible load cases to help design the hull in a way that achieves their goal. As the deckhouse is located further forward than traditional vessels, these calculations and simulations are of pivotal importance to make sure the engineers have the information needed to design a hull that reduces motion. The wellbeing of the crew is of the highest importance, which is why AAL and the class society are undertaking so many calculations and hypothetical cargo possibilities to analyse the vessel across its lifetime.

Bridge forward

As a multipurpose vessel, the nature of the cargo being transported over the lifetime of the vessel will be diverse, large and unique, and there is a possibility of reduced visibility with an aft-placed bridge. The decision to move the bridge forward means that reduced visibility because of cargo dimensions is less of a consideration. The major benefit of this is that crew safety and vessel safety are prioritised. Visibility is also one of the biggest issues when manoeuvring vessels of this size with heavy cargo, particularly in technical areas of water such as ports. AAL has undertaken studies on other vessels with CCTV capabilities to help ease this problem with some success but designing a vessel with the bridge further forward is the best way to avoid reduced visibility.

With the main superstructure towards the bow of the vessel, it was decided to place the engines towards the rear of the vessel to reduce noise and vibrations.

It has been reported on other vessels that engines can cause discomfort in crew quarters, so AAL has taken steps to avoid this as much as possible.

However, the disadvantage is that crews will need to travel further from their accommodations to the engine rooms. Therefore, these newbuilds will have an engine office located on the main deck below crew accommodation where officers will be able to monitor and control the engine and tanks.

The newbuilds will also include covers in the areas surrounding the winches, located across the length of the ship. This will protect crewmembers against the elements, particularly rain or green water when they are working. For the forward areas, a roof will be installed; the aft working areas are located below the enlarged cargo deck. Between these two areas there will be a covered walkway portside, adding further protection for individuals moving across the length of the vessel during their shifts.

Crew living quarters will include recreational areas, a gym, and highspeed internet access for unlimited communication to crew on board.

Furthermore, kitchens and galleys are designed to follow guidelines and feedback from catering specialists and crew to provide efficiency and comfort for the preparation of diverse nutritional meals.

The design choices made by AAL for these newbuilds, as well as the data gathered by the class society, will help create a vessel that is not only safer for the industry, but will improve working conditions for seafarers and ensure that they receive the highest levels of comfort.