For shipbuilding, fiber reinforced plastics have clear advantages over metals, especially in military ships. Still, the navies of the world have not massively changed over to composites yet. There is a sense of urgency though, especially in Dutch and Scandinavian shipbuilders, that now is the time to really make that change happen. We talked to experts from Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding in Vlissingen, the Netherlands, and learned about the advantages of composites, but also about the challenges that have to be overcome.

The Damen group has a long history producing ships in composites, going back as far as the 1960s. In the early 1980s for example they were already producing fast, light composites vessels. “But then aluminum enabled cheaper production, so Damen turned completely to aluminum,” Joep Broekhuijsen says. He is the general coordinator research and development at Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (www.damennaval.com) in Vlissingen, the Netherlands.

Since the turn of the century however, the Damen group is investing heavily in composites again. And since a few years, they have a composites shipyard in Antalya, Turkey, producing light, fast ships of up to 25 m in length. “These are mostly interceptors: fast little boats which are carried on board of the mother ship for giving chase,” says Laurent Morel, technical specialist composite structures at Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding. “We are producing a series of seventy of them in a factory-like way at a rate of about one a week. We also have two water buses in production there: catamarans for passenger transport. And in all our crew suppliers and offshore supply boats for example, the whole superstructure is already made from composites.”

This article appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Reinforced Plastics.

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