6: The New Generation Software For Offshore Vessel Loading
Offshore vessel operations are increasingly more complex.
Added to this fact is the requirement to do all tasks
faster and at the same time retain high safety margins.
In particular, onboard cargo management including heavy
crane operations requires effective tools for monitoring
the vessel's stability and strength. Fortunately, high
speed computer systems are now available to assist offshore
vessel crew and management to meet these operational
requirements. A leader in the development of loading
computer software that meets these requirements is Autoship
Systems Corporation (ASC). Together with the effective
system delivery process of Coastdesign Norway A/S (Coastdesign),
offshore vessel companies can be assured of a reliable,
turnkey solution to their loading computer requirements.
For 25 years Autoship System Corporation has developed
software for the marine industry. A pioneer in CAD/CAM
software for vessel design, ASC has been a world-leader
in this software class throughout the company's life.
A key software in the ASC software suite is the stability
analysis program Autohydro. Autohydro
is being used by more then 1000 ship design companies
and yards around the world, and is accepted and approved
by all governing approval bodies. In the mid-1990s,
ASC decided to make a vessel-specific loading computer
version of Autohydro. This new software was named
Coastdesign Norway A/S has been a dealer of ASC software,
virtually since ASC started writing programs. Coastdesign
has developed a fast, reliable production and delivery
system for Autoload to offshore vessels.
At the time the early versions of Autoload were
being introduced to the market, computers were just
becoming strong enough to handle 3D based "first
principle" stability systems onboard. Since those
early days, 3D based systems have become the loading
software of choice, gradually replacing the more traditional,
simple table-based "loading computers". Over
this same period, Autoload has undergone constant
improvement. Many of the improvements have been a result
of end-user feedback The development of the highly advanced
Autoload 3D based user interface has also benefited
from ASC's long experience with developing CAD/CAM software.
From the start, Autoship System Corporation has adopted
a simple yet sophisticated philosophy for developing
Autoload: the program must be simple to use,
yet apply the most accurate mathematical analyses to
all calculations. Therefore, one brief look at the Autoload
screen provides the user with a quick and accurate picture
of the vessel's current stability status, loads and
important margins. The user can then make critical decisions,
while leaving the 3D model based mathematical complexity
of the problem to the computer.
Today, this development philosophy has been maintained
in the recent release of the new generation of Autoload,
Autoload 6. One of the advanced yet simple to
use new features in Autoload 6 is a cargo and
crane handling module.
Autoload's cargo handling capability was first
developed in response to a large cargo vessel fleet's
(Wallenius Wilhelmsen) cargo planning requirements.
This particular version of Autoload includes
a direct interface with the company's booking system,
advanced stowing, port rotation, cargo tracking, etc
- basically everything that is important for ship planning.
The Autoload 6 cargo and crane handling module
is a compressed and easy to use version, developed for
the offshore vessel market.
Autoload 6 screen layout with cargo module, as installed
onboard Ulstein BN 271, "Normand Installer",
owned by Solstad Shipping. The main screen shows all
the important parameters, including alarms. In the upper-right
of the screen, the most important margins: to max allowable
VCG, bending moment and shear force, are shown as green
bars when within limits, changing to red when limits
are exceeded. All graphical windows can be edited directly
on screen. Release the mouse button and all images automatically
update with the correct floating position and margins.
The Autoload 6 Cargo / Crane
The Autoload 6 cargo and crane module was developed
for vessels where deck cargo and crane lifts are critical
for the vessel's stability. Thanks in a large part to
the ASC CAD software development, the cargo and crane
handling module has a very powerful 3D graphical interface
for cargo editing and visualization. The newly developed
graphical user interface permits the operator to edit
the deck cargo and carry out crane operations in 2D
and 3D graphical interfaces. The crane geometry and
capacity, and cargo deck(s) are hard-coded in the 3D
vessel model. Any movement of cargo or crane(s) updates
the vessel's floating position and stability margins
each time the mouse button is released. Even the weight
of the crane boom itself is taken into account when
moving the crane.
The operation is simple. The operator can simply drag
and drop cargo onto the deck, drag the cargo inside
the crane's operational range, left click the crane,
select/hook the cargo, and move the crane with the mouse.
The left mouse button controls the cranes topping and
slewing angle, whereas the right button click moves/controls
the knuckle jib angle (or telescope length).
2D and 3D deck/crane window. Note that the crane
module gives visual indication of space conflict. In
this example, there is a possible space conflict for
cargo in the A-frame. Also note the capacity limitation
for the crane at midship is indicated. (Capacity limitation,
based on weight of hooked loads, is indicated by the
The operator can create any cargo item, and place it
on deck by use of a simple drag & drop process.
Any cargo item placed inside a crane's operation range
can be hooked to the crane by a right click of the crane,
followed by selecting the cargo. Dual lift is possible,
as long as two cranes can reach the same cargo item.
The cargo deck can be printed to report, showing the
deck layout, correct cargo properties, and all cargo
details (cargo manifest). Standard cargo shapes like
20` and 40` containers are saved in a cargo shape library.
The program user can add any new shapes to this library.
The program has numerous features which allow for safe
crane operation. Once a cargo item is hooked, the crane's
operation range will be colour coded. Green means that
the lift is safe, red means that the crane is overloaded.
In addition, the crane graphical user interface allows
the operator to check the feasibility of the crane lift.
Conflicts such as clearance to ship's side, height of
cargo item versus height of boom, or clearance to any
part of the vessel (or any other cargo on deck) are
indicated. Finally, the operator can simulate a break
in the crane cable simply by unhooking the crane load.
The weight of hooked cargo will be removed, however
the weight of the boom in correct position will be included
in the calculation of floating status.
The crane sequence window allows the crane operation
to be planned in detail, step by step. Each step will
record the position of all cargo, the crane(s) position
and load, and the ballast water distribution.
Crane sequence window. Each step can be replayed,
and the full sequence can be printed out in a report.
Note the 2D crane window showing all details for the
selected crane eg. crane position and load, cable length
and cargo clearance (from bottom of hanging cargo to
ship or other cargo on deck).
The Autoload crane module handles crane types
including telescope, knuckle jib, and A frame cranes.
First Principle Calculations
on the 3D Vessel Model
The vessel model, as the basis for all calculations,
is truly 3D. It includes all volumes (tanks, holds,
empty spaces, wind areas, etc). The 3D model allows
first principle mathematical treatment. The result is
a true simulation of any floating condition, including
real shift of CG for slack tanks, wind heeling moment,
and accurate damage simulation (loss of buoyancy method).
In addition, with the vessel's cranes and cargo decks
hard-coded into the same 3D vessel model, the operator
has a unique tool for exact simulation of any critical
vessel operation. The Autoload 3D vessel model
is exactly the same model as used for calculations in
approved stability booklets.
Normand Installer 3D vessel model. The model includes
hull & appendages, all tanks, all voids and engine
rooms (for damage), superstructure (for wind), cargo
deck(s) and cranes.
Vessel loading is a combination of input from tank sensors
and manual input. Manual input includes tanks not online
and manually entered (solid) loads. When tanks are online,
Autoload will load the model tanks precisely
in accordance with sensor reading and vessel trim and
A key feature of Autoload is the draft survey.
In the Draft Dialogue, the user can compare Autoload
calculated drafts with "real drafts" - obtained
either from manually observed drafts or from draft sensors.
A "constant weight", equal to the sum of unknown
weights onboard, is determined from the difference between
calculated drafts and real drafts. A draft survey report
can be printed directly from the Draft Dialogue.
Autoload Draft Dialogue. Note the green draft marks
on the model views are 3D representations of the real
draft marks on the vessel hull. These marks correspond
exactly to where the observed drafts are read. (If the
operator decides to use drafts from sensors, the sensor
readings are re-calculated and shown as drafts at the
The vessel's loading computer represents a very small
yet crucial piece of the ship's automation system. However,
delivery of the loading computer is often a last minute
issue for the yard as final stability data is not available
until after the inclining test and the final approved
stability booklet is released. It is therefore of great
importance to the yard that delivery and installation
of the loading computer is 100% streamlined and problem
Having gained invaluable experience from equipping
more than 100 offshore vessels with Autoload,
Coastdesign Norway A/S has developed a delivery process
that meets the stringent timeline requirements of the
shipyard. The process minimizes the time needed for
the yard to get the Autoload system installed
and integrated with the vessel's automation system.
Central to the Autoload delivery process is
the fact that the Autoload installation is 100%
automatic. The operator need only start the setup from
the installation CD, minimizing the need for computer
skills. Even the computer's registry and regional settings
and tank/draft sensor communication parameters are correctly
set up by the installation program.
The Autoload "plug and play" delivery
process is possible because every ship specific Autoload
with sensor interface communication software is lab
tested. (When a vessel is equipped with the Rolls Royce
(Umas) automation system, Autoload is already
integrated into the Umas system delivery.) For added
convenience, the installation CD for each vessel, including
documentation and approval reports is now available
for the shipyard and the ship owner on a password protected
It is worth noting that for a specific vessel, the
Autoload software license allows the software
to be installed on an unlimited number of computers
onboard and in the owner's/operator's office. This fact
adds great flexibility to the program user, as loading
condition files (a few kb) can be easily exchanged by
mail between ship and office.
Autoload's 3D model based calculations, simple
yet effective user interface, and superior cargo handling
capability makes Autoload a superior loading
computer software. Combined with a proven delivery process,
the Autoload system is truly a software package
that you should seriously consider for your next loading
software requirement. For more information, please email