Autonomous aircraft...

I was reading about Boein's latest research project - developing a pilotless airliner that is capable of taking off, making the flight and landing, all done by computers. The only crew on board would be the cabin crew to look after the passengers, although I'm sure that in time robots could take their place. Already, aircraft can take off and land, as well as fly automatically, but there is always a flight deck crew on board. As far back as the 1960's the then British European Airways Trident aircraft could land automatically and the first automatic landing took place in June 1965.

However, the big problem with these systems arises when something goes wrong and with a crew, the pilots can usually make the right decisions to ensure the safety of the passengers. The best example was the 2009 landing of an aircraft in the Hudson river after a bird strike caused the engines to shut down. Would a computer have been able to make the same decisions as the captain of that flight? I doubt it as this was unprecedented. Although trials are scheduled for next year, it will be a long time before the various aviation authorities issue licences for pilotless aircraft to be used. I think we will see fully autonomous cars, lorries and ships before then.

Posted: Sunday 11th June 2017

LNG powered...

The Tern Ocean at Rothesay Dock in Clydebank having delivered a cargo of a cargo of petroleum products from Brofjorden, Sweden.</p><p d

The Tern Ocean at Rothesay Dock in Clydebank having delivered a cargo of a cargo of petroleum products from Brofjorden, Sweden.

© John G. Fender 2014

In the on-going quest for cleaner transport has led to improvements in engine technology, although diesel engines still have a bit of a problem with particulates, they are now more efficient than ever.

One area that has lagged behind in terms of emissions is marine diesel engine technology, but with new regulations coming into force, this has been an area that has seen dramatic improvements in recent years.

Now some of the latest ships coming into service are powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) but these are still very rare. The other day, I took a photograph of a tanker that had arrived in Clydebank, but it was not until I looked up its details today that I found out that this was a brand new tanker, and in addition, it is powered by LNG as well as diesel.

This ship is the Tern Ocean, a double hulled oil and chemical tanker owned by Terntank Rederi A/S of Skagen in Denmark. It is one of 4 ships built by the Avic Dingheng Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. of China to Rolls-Royce Marine AS type NVC 615 CT design.

Launched in 2016 and delivered to its owners on 15th March 2017, the Tern Ocean is 147 metres in length with a beam of 22 metres and has a gross tonnage of 11,374 tons. With a deadweight tonnage of 14,827 tons, it can carry up to 16,548 cubic metres of cargo in 14 cargo tanks. Cargo handling is by 7 Deepwell DW 200/250 multi-suction, frequency controlled pumps rated at 450 cubic metres per hour.

Powered by a Wärtsilä 5RT-flex 50 DF 2-stroke low pressure LNG dual-fuel engine rated at 5,850 kW at 102 RPM propulsion is via a controllable pitch propeller giving a speed of 14.5 knots. Two LNG fuel tanks are mounted side-by-side on the forward section of the weather deck with a combined capacity of some 630 cubic metres giving an endurance of 6,600 nautical miles. This is supplemented by 550 cubic metres of gas oil in underdeck tanks.

In the photograph, you can just see one of the LNG fuels tanks on the deck towards the bow of the ship although the angle does make it hard to appreciate the length of the ship. This is the first LHN powered ship I have seen and will no doubt be the last.

Posted: Saturday 10th June 2017

The results...

The results of yesterday's general election are very interesting, espeically north of the border. In the 2015 general election the SNP won all but three of the Scottish seats, but this time they lost 21 seats. Labour gained 3 seats to add to the one they had list time and the Liberal Democrats also gained 3 seats to add to their single seat from last time. The big surprise was that the Conservatives, who won one seat in 2015 gained another 12. Not only that, but two of the SNP's leading figures lost their seats. Overall, we now have a "hung" parliament as no single party has an overall majority so there will no doubt be deals being done. I think the next few weeks will be interesting and I predicts that we will be going back to the polls again within the next 12 to 18 months. Lets see if I'm right.

Posted: Friday 9th June 2017

X marks the spot...Again!

Today was polling day again. This time in another general election, so I trudged off to the polling station through heavy rain to cast my vote. This time there were only four candidates in my constituency, so I marked my "X" in the appropriate square on the ballot paper, dropped it into the ballot box and headed back home through the continuing heavy rain. It will be interesting to see how this election works out.

Posted: Thursday 8th June 2017

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