The Province of Groningen is granting the Groninger Maritime Board (GMB) a 250,000 euro subsidy for the feasibility study “Shared facility for the northern Dutch shipbuilding industry”. This project will investigate how robotisation can be applied in the northern shipbuilding industry to improve the productivity of the entire chain.

The future of the northern shipbuilding industry is under pressure and orders are being lost because of too high costs. Cooperation is essential to maintain the maritime sector and employment in the northern part of the Netherlands.

The outcome of the project will decide whether a robotics facility will be built. Commissioner IJzebrand Rijzebol: ‘The actual construction of the robotics facility will be an impulse for the entire northern maritime industry. It will create a lot of employment and offer opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions from shipping.’

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Automated processes

The “Shared facility” project consists of various applications: from automated assembly of steel plates and profiles, to welding micro panels together in a central robot line. Automated processes increase quality and shorten lead times, allowing more ships to be built per yard each year. This increases employment in shipbuilding and among suppliers.

‘With the “Smart Industry” programme, we are firmly committed to smart production lines through digitalisation and robotisation in the chain,’ states Geert Huizinga, FME director (FME is the employers’ organisation for the technology industry). ‘With a shared facility in the shipbuilding sector, we can further shape this and strengthen our competitive position.’

Robotics micro panels
Micro panels could be welded together in a central robot line (by Conoship).

Innovation and sustainable construction

Fifty years after Groningen and Friesland Conoship shipyards jointly started computer-controlled steel cutting, there are now great opportunities for the joint production of micro panels in a central robotised “Shared facility” for ship hulls of the individual shipyards.

This would also make the efficient construction of sustainable ships possible more quickly. ‘In connection with a more efficient production chain and the local development of CO2 reduction technology, a large replacement demand for innovative fossil-free and low-emission ships can be anticipated, which can be built in the Northern Netherlands instead of in China,’ says Guus van der Bles, director development at Conoship International.

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Collaboration in the maritime sector

The “Shared facility” project was initiated by the Groningen Maritime Board and is implemented by the GMB Foundation, Conoship International, FME and Marstrat, in collaboration with a large number of shipyards and suppliers from the northern Dutch maritime sector.

‘This is the momentum in which the Northern maritime sector recognises that collaboration is necessary to secure the future,’ concludes Egbert Vuursteen, CEO of Royal Wagenborg and chairman of the Groninger Maritime Board.

Picture (top): Micro panels by Conoship International.

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