Sep 072009

Could steel 'velcro' help prevent ship losses?

A week after MAIB’s report of on the Riverdance incident, and the day after a Philippine ferry capsized, MAC came across this potential life- and ship- saver in his favourite science magazine, New Scientist. It is, put simply, steel Velcro developed in Germany’s Technical University of Munich.

Called Metaklett and credited to a team led by Josef Mair it uses a hook-and-eye system similar to Velcro, but is made of thin,perforated steel strips. When ‘velcroed’ together a square metre will support 7 tonnes vertically, or perpendicular to the plane, and 35 tonnes horizontally, or with the plane.

It could be just the answer to shifting, poorly lashed cargo in heavy weather, a common feature in capsizes and sinkings like Superferry 9, to which it may have contributed, Princess of the Stars, in which cargo shifting certainly did play a role, and the Riverdance incident.

Obviously, there is the issue of how well Metaklett would stand up to the corrosive maritime environment and seafarer’s indelicate handling, but the potential is there.

A highly desirable item for ro-ro shipowners, of course, who can now Velcro container trucks one above the other on the bulkheads.

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