Rescue boats have evolved greatly in terms of design, manufacture, and equipment over the years. In the past decade, technology has been a great influencer, with boats being designed to accommodate and adapt the newer technologies that have made rescue operations faster and more efficient. Increase in environmental awareness and the need for sustainable transport has prompted many leading rescue boat manufacturers in India to invest in composite and eco-friendly boat building materials.
In this article, we see the various trends that will influence rescue boats in 2019. Some of these will continue from 2018, while some other new trends have emerged over the past year. Here’s a look.
Trends Influencing Rescue Boats in 2019
Boat manufacturing trends for rescue boats differ from those for conventional boats, as their objectives are different. Detecting people, wrecks, and boats in need of rescue and bringing them to safety is the primary focus of rescue boats. Hence, the factors influencing rescue boats are different from the factors influencing passenger, pleasure, or cargo boats. These are as follows:
Implementation of Imaging Technology
The implementation of 3D imaging technology in rescue boats is expected to be a game-changer, in terms of detecting people and vessels in need of rescue. This technology allows the rescuer to see the bottom contours of the boat, which lets him/her identify a drowning person immediately. Transducer-based imaging technology also helps the rescuer detect items suspended in water and hence identify possible victims tangled in branches or floating in shallow waters.
In internal rescue operations, the change in hull design to a smaller draft angle and an improved propulsion system allow for better navigation in shallow waters.
Focus Towards Advanced Cyber Security
The rising popularity of smart ships is accompanied by the rise in related security threats as well. Cyber security is an important aspect to be considered, especially in case of rescue boats, as leaked rescue plans can have catastrophic consequences. As a lot of search and rescue equipment, such as voice communication systems, location transponders, etc. are based on the technology of Internet of Things, they are susceptible to cyber-attacks, which can prove potentially fatal. Hence, there is an increasing focus towards improved cyber security awareness and implementation, which will have a definite impact on rescue boats.
Greater Digital Impact
Digital has taken over the world. Every activity in daily life and on rescue boats is dependent on digital control. These days, digital displays are coming in vogue on passenger boats, which link to all the systems of the boat. This trend is expected to influence rescue boats as well. As people become used to receiving information at the touch of a finger, digital is going to penetrate every segment of the boat manufacturing industry. The advantage of using digital screens, shifts, and throttles, is that they are much more reliable than their mechanical counterparts.
Introduction of Wearable Technology
Wearable technology, which was previously limited only to fitness trackers and heart-rate monitors is now set to expand to the maritime segment as well. Wearable technology is highly versatile, ranging from smart watches to smart clothing, and more. Now it is possible not only to detect the location of a person in distress, but also navigate the boat, have embedded rescue equipment in the clothing, etc., which is extremely helpful for rescue operations.
A Push for Vessel Automation
Boat automation is a hot topic in the industry right now, with several maritime powers investing in the automation of boats. Rescue boat automation, however, is in a slower phase. There are several challenges of having an autonomous boat, the most important one being how the boat can approach the person in distress without endangering the life of the person. Also, these boats, if released from larger ships need to be self-righting, have thermal-imaging technology to read the heat signature of the person in need of rescue and accordingly, be able to reach, rescue, and administer first-aid to the person in distress.
As of now, all of this is near-impossible without the knowledge and experience of human rescuers. Nevertheless, as technology advances, automated vessels can be gradually used to drive search and rescue boats.
Fluctuations in the Regional Market
The varying geographical considerations are one of the strongest influencers of rescue boat design. In India, the design of rescue boats for open seas and that for inland, shallow-water regions is different. Often, patrol boats also double as rescue boats, depending on the availability of boats and the need for rescue in the region.
Additionally, the types of rescue boats used for rescue operations close to the shore and for rescues far from the shore are different. The manufacture of rescue craft is hence affected by the fluctuations in the regional market needs.
Increase in Use of Advanced Composite Materials
This is primarily a factor influencing rescue boat design, as many new boat building materials come into the picture. At present, fibre-reinforced plastic is one of the most popular materials used for building smaller rescue craft. These FRP boats are easier to make than iron and steel contraptions and they are more eco-friendly as well. Equipped with all the required search and safety equipment, these boats can be used for on-shore as well as off-shore rescue operations.
Rising Costs of Fuel Consumption and Environmental Impact
Environmental concerns have always been a driving factor for boat design and manufacture. The increasing fuel costs, as well as their impact on climate change will dominate rescue boat design in 2019 as well. As the sulphur caps set by the International Maritime Organization will be implemented by 2020. Manufacturers are striving to successfully use alternative energy sources in boats. Since rescue boats need to travel in all sorts of weather conditions and to extreme locations, designing the boat for maximum efficiency while balancing its carbon footprint is going to be a challenge for engineers.
Rescue boats are a crucial component of the maritime world. They are literally the safeguards of human life in the tempestuous seas and hence carry great responsibility. As technology advances by leaps and bounds in the 21st century, boat manufacturers in India need to adapt to the new trends and create efficient rescue boats that are adept at doing their job.
What are your thoughts on the trends influencing rescue boats? Any other trends you think can have an impact? Discuss your thoughts with us in the comments section below!