Black boxes and drones – DTU students get creative on sulphur detection
04-05-2017 10:00

On Wednesday evening, six teams of engineering students presented their ambitious and innovative ideas to a panel of judges from industry and the public sector.

Photo: Kaare Smith

( Jens Moll-Elsborg, Hannelore Peeters, Lina Barsøe Christensen, Rasmus Korslund Schlander. Photo: Kaare Smith )

Ideas developed under the SOx Challenge – a student competition on how to detect if ships comply with the international regulation of sulphur emissions.

​Sulphur emissions can damage human health and the environment. In order to ensure cleaner air to people across the world, the International Maritime Organization has decided on more stringent requirements to the sulphur emissions from ships. The SOx Challenge, which ended last night with final judging and celebration of the winners, was the first time students were asked to apply their knowledge and creativity to the problem of detecting violations of the sulphur regulation.

“The students have worked in cross-disciplinary teams which have enabled them to cast away limitations and to propose some highly creative solutions. As an example, one team is working with a two-step solution looking at both SOx deposition in the stack and ships monitoring each other en route”, says Head of DTU Skylab, Mikkel Sørensen.

Other ideas included a tamper free black box mounted on ships that collect emissions data and even a new concept for extending the reach of surveillance drones to make them a viable solution.

The 1st place went to the above mentioned solution based on commercial ships equipped with sensors that measure emissions from other ships passing by. The results will automatically be relayed to authorities in the target ships’ next port of call. This is then followed up with the second element of the winning solution where Port State Control will analyse the sulphur content of the soot from the ships’ stack to use as proof of non-compliance. The team behind this concept was praised for having combined several innovative elements to arrive at a holistic solution.

“We are extremely happy to participate in this project given the role of EMSA in supporting EU authorities in the effective enforcement of the sulphur regulations. The students have demonstrated their commitment to a sustainable and environmentally friendly future and the winning project in particular has the potential for further research and implementation in the near future”, says Senior Project Officer at EMSA, Sergio Alda.

Cooperation on sulphur enforcement

The idea itself to have a student competition was hatched by a team of private companies and authorities.

“In a very short time we have gotten six fresh, innovative perspectives on a problem that is shared by almost every Coastal- and Flag State in the world - the need for effective and uniform enforcement to ensure a level playing field for the industry”, says Director of Maritime Regulation and Legal Affairs at the Danish Maritime Authority, Henriette Bytoft Flügge.

Enforcement of the upcoming global sulphur limit is indeed a challenge for both the enforcing authorities and for the maritime industry that depends on everybody having to follow the same rules.

“We are excited to be part of this project and have been looking forward to receiving creative and innovative ideas. Only this can help secure a robust and efficient enforcement, particularly on the high seas. Securing adequate enforcement of such global regulations is by no means an easy feat, but Maersk is ready to play its part in ensuring that a level playing field for the industry subsists”, says Niels H. Bruus, Head of Future Solutions in Fleet Management and Technology, Maersk.

While developing their projects, the student teams were supported by mentors from each of the partnering organisations, Boeing Company, Maersk, the Danish Technical University, The Danish Environmental Protection Agency and The Danish Maritime Authority.

"We enjoy engaging students in these types of events. We have had great experiences with them because the ideas and innovation we get from the students are incredible. When you combine passion, smarts, and a hard challenge there's no limit to what we get", says Managing Director at Boeing HorizonX, Logan A. Jones.

During the finals on Wednesday evening, the partners had allied themselves with EMSA (the European Maritime Safety Agency) to form a judging panel. All the project ideas were pitched by their inventors and assessed according to predetermined criteria on effectiveness, implementing cost and others.

“Enforcement is crucial to ensure the environmental effect of the sulphur regulation for ships. New ideas on how this can be done more effectively are very welcome,” says Head of Division at the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, Sara Røpke.

There were cash prizes for the winners as well as the second and third place. The competition and the prizes were sponsored by the Danish Maritime Fund.

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Peter Krog-Meyer, Head of Executive Office
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