How to Design a Vessel in 5 steps

Looking back at my design experience I would love to share some thoughts regarding how to design a vessel in 5 steps.
By yourself. If you are a Naval Architect or a self-taught amateur.
After some time spent in thinking I decided to describe following stages or steps:

Step 1 - Imagination & Analyzing.

At this step we are imagining what kind of vessel are we going to design, what kind of main dimensions
we would like to have and what type of the hull we are planning to choose (classic, X-bow, mono hull, catamaran, etc).
Once we decided it’s time to analyze what kind of Rules or/and Conventions we would take as the basement for our project.
We can determine following sub-steps for this stage:

[li]Is it below “conventional dimensions”? So we are not applying for any Certificates and Rules.[/li][li]Is it above “conventional dimensions”? So we will apply for IMO, SOLAS, MARPOL, LL, COLREG, STCW, HSC, SPS and others.[/li][li]Under what kind of “Flag” are we going to sail? And if we have already chosen the “Flag” we will have to do research[/li][li]about the local Classification Authority, in a circle of interests of which we might to appear and Rules of which we will have to implement for our project.[/li][/ul]

[FONT=Georgia]Step 2 – Concept Design and work with Rules.

At this step we are working closely with “first entry” 3D design of the vessel’s hull to materialize our
imagination and “make it done” in simple 3D model of the outside skin of the vessel.
Golden Rule - It [FONT=inherit]DOES NOT matter if we are not going to claim for certificates of any Classification Society
or Conventions – we are always designing a vessel using any suitable Rules of Classification Societies and/or
International Conventions in a value we able to implement them to maximize and risen the level of our quality
and safety. [/FONT]
There are following sub-steps we can highlight below:

[li]Concept design: 3D model; General form of the ship; Volumes; Gross Tonnage; Proportions; Dimensions ratio; Etc.[/li][li]Research and choosing of the Rules to implement.[/li][li]Applying Rules and carrying out calculations of structural elements[/li][/ul]

Step 3 – Principle Design and GA Drawing.

At this stage we are taking the final decision about going ahead with whole project if all Rules and standards
we have chosen before been implemented at the Step 2 and this implementation helped us to find a right balance
between our desired concept design and strict requirements of the Classification Society/International Conventions.
Once we took decision to go ahead, we will have to do following sub-steps:

[li]General Arrangement drawing of the vessel.[/li][li]Lines Plan.[/li][li]Main principal plans and schematics.[/li][li]Preliminary calculations of weights and Centers of Gravity (CG).[/li][li]Correct calculations of the exact vessel’s displacement(-s).[/li][li]Operation conditions of the future vessel (will be used for Stability Booklet).[/li][/ul]

Step 4 – Solidworks.

This is the most happy stage for a professional designer – set the vessel’s hull and materialize it into a 3D model
including frames, bulkheads, carlines, beams, stringers, floors, keels, stiffening girders, tanks, holds, engine room,
forepeak, afterpeak, living compartments, etc. At this stage we can highlight the following sub-steps:

[li]Solid work and 3D designing of the vessel’s hull.[/li][li]The final calculation of the weights and Centers of Gravity (CG) based on 3d data and calculations [/li]of CG in the software– will be used for Stability Booklet.
[li]Creation of the basic 2D sections and plans to be used for Class Project.[/li][/ul]

[FONT=Georgia]Step 5 - Class Project.

At this final stage we are preparing a Class Project (if we are under Class) or a “Technical Project”
of the vessel (if we are not under any Class). At the same time this stage includes preparation of
Stability Booklet and stability calculations. The advantage of this stage is that if there is more than
one Naval Architect the Class Project and Stability calculations can be in progress parallel with stage Nr.4
which saves time. If you are a lonely hero – you will have to do it step by step.
This stage includes following sub-steps:

[li]Creating of Class Project which includes set of 2D drawings of Midship section; Middle Frame section; [/li]Cross frames sections; Deck(-s) plan(-s); Plan of Bulkheads; Side Planking; Tanks; Engine room plans;
Cargo holds plans; Bottom plans; Living compartments and Superstructure; etc.
[li]Stability Calculations and issuing of Stability Booklet.[/li][/ul]

Here we go. Sounds scary but I’m sure it is one of the most organized methods of vessel’s design.
I tried it many times before by myself being a single designer involved in a process and I had to follow
the steps to come to the final stage – Class Project of the vessel.
I hope this publication was interesting for maritime professionals and naval architects. I appreciate
attention of everyone who read this publication, however conversation is open for future comments,
questions and suggestions.

Link to publication on LinkedIn

1 Like

Nice article. Thank you for the input.

Before starting to work on a the hull form, you should do a quick reference vessel study to get some idea of the main dimensions. If you’re going to design a “common” vessel type such as a tanker or a bulk carrier, you can pull a list of hundreds of similar ships from e.g. IHS Sea-Web, find the relationships between different properties, and get a set of main dimensions based on e.g. deadweight tonnage. A statistical method also reveals deviations from “standard” dimension ratios - if you’re for example designing a vessel with limited beam and have to increase the length-to-beam ratio, you should have additional weight reserve to allow for extra longitudinal strengthening. With a novel design it becomes a little bit more difficult, but with some background data you can determine “tons per square foot”, “tons per cubic foot” and “tons per hp” figures for different weight categories to get the first lightship weight estimate. If all else fails, you might have to start from scratch and do a few iterations to get the vessel size right.

Thank you. Very important points you brought up here.

Thank you for posting this article, I am a student of naval architecture and am starting my graduation topic. I would be grateful if you could point me some books and rules regarding ship geometry design, looking forward to hearing from you.

Or, you build a barge that holds all the oil field fluids you need to carry, then put a semi-pointy end on it and throw some engines in the back. Done. Oh wait, you forgot the crew quarters. Build a square box and install it up forward somewhere. Now you’re done. haha