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Thursday, January 6, 2022 

The Western Joint Branch Junior Design Challenge, an annual contest run for associate members of RINA and IMarEST, saw teams from engineering consultancy BMT take first and second places with new research vessel concepts.

The design competition aims to challenge pre-chartership level engineers to develop a design solution to an ongoing issue in the maritime industry. This year's focus was on the environmental impacts of increased marine traffic in the Arctic Sea due to dwindling sea ice and the opening up of the northern passages. The challenge: to design a vessel that provided a platform for researching Polar ecosystems and the environmental effects of increased maritime operations. The vessel would also have to provide a testbed for novel technologies, replenish remote research stations, and operate over increased periods of self-sufficiency, all whilst minimising its impact on the local environment.

Two teams from BMT DAS UK entered this year's competition: Team Silentium Beluga and Team Edward Parry Marine, alongside three other teams from Steller systems and Babcock. The BMT contestants are said to have worked tirelessly to develop innovative and feasible designs. Team Silentium Beluga arrived at a concept design that implemented a trimaran hull form that allowed for a large stable deck with an extensive research deck for modular lab space and inflatable wing sails to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20%, alongside solar power and batteries to supplement power generation. Team Edward Parry Marine took a different approach, proposing the refit of an existing ice breaker vessel that incorporated modular testbeds for novel emerging technologies and an intelligent power management system, utilising multiple energy sources, including solar testbeds, batteries and dual-fuel engines. Both teams highlighted the necessity for modularity and a significant reliance on automation and the use of uncrewed vehicles to minimise the vessels' operational impact on the local environment.

After eight weeks of hard work, a poster submission, presentations, and questions from the judges, Team Silentium Beluga took the win, with Team Edward Parry Marine coming in a close second.

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