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Interview with Annette Roy and Fabrice Faurre on the IMOS consortium

News International-French

7 Jan 2019

The IMOS consortium brings together a group of marine and naval construction companies that partner with oceanography specialists and academics from La Rochelle to develop a new generation of ocean research vessels. In particular, they are providing support to the Plastic Odyssey project on ocean pollution from plastic waste.

Interview with Annette Roy and Fabrice Faurre on the IMOS consortium

Interview with Annette Roy and Fabrice Faurre on the IMOS consortium

The IMOS consortium (Idustrial Modular Oceanographic Ship), La Rochelle (France) brings together a group of marine and naval construction companies that partner with oceanography specialists and academics from La Rochelle to develop a new generation of ocean research vessels. In particular, they are providing support to the Plastic Odyssey project on ocean pollution from plastic waste.

JEC Composites Magazine: How did the IMOS consortium start? What issues and needs does it address today?
Annette Roy & Fabrice Faurre: With the support of the La Rochelle Nautic Network (LR2N) association, the IMOS consortium was created when five boatbuilding companies decided to work together on a strategy to diversify into workboats. Techniyacht Pinta, Chantier Hervé, Formes et Volumes, APPEP, and the Berret Racoupeau naval architecture firm teamed up with LR2N to form a public interest cooperative in the form of a simplified joint stock company. They opened up the capital to other corporate and scientific partners with a common yet complementary interest – for example, Ship As a Service (SAS) to operate our ships; Lecamus, a shipbuilder that specializes in high-density polyethylene plastic (PEHD) boilers and vessels; and the architect Thomas Serré (SB Yacht Design), very involved in boat ecodesign.

IMOS’s first goal was to guarantee its companies job sustainability, given the current fluctuations of yachting market. Job development is of course a major focus for our consortium. Pooling our export marketing efforts under the IMOS brand is another. But our consortium also has the goal to address – at its own level – the major environmental and societal challenges of our time. First, by setting up environmental management in our companies and for the ecodesign of IMOS boats. Second, by enabling our companies to innovate through collaborative projects.

JEC Composites Magazine: The partnership approach is in IMOS’s DNA – how does it serve you?
A. R. & F. F.:
It’s true that IMOS is not just a marketing tool – it is a research and development network that is committed to its members and to developing the industry regionally. The partnership approach encourages a competitive spirit through an exchange of best practices and by enabling small businesses to integrate innovation, environmental protection and human safety into their development process.

 

A Plastic Odyssey presentation featuring an IMOS ship (architect: Olivier Racoupeau that will serve as support for their project. The La Rochelle Aquarium in partnership with the CCI)

A Plastic Odyssey presentation featuring an IMOS ship (architect: Olivier Racoupeau that will serve as support for their project. The La Rochelle Aquarium in partnership with the CCI)

JEC Composites Magazine: What R&D priorities are you implementing to bring about the industrial transition in the maritime sector, and what role do composites play in the success of your strategy?
A. R. & F. F.: The R&D within IMOS is based on developing new types of basic modular ocean research vessels that are ergonomic and have strong user value. Of course, to be compatible with our strategy, the development of our boats needs to include an ecodesign and ecobuilding approach. The initial stages of implementation of this strategy leading up to the design and construction of the first 24-metre and 7.5-metre multimission ocean research vessels will focus on two goals, which are to reduce the environmental impacts during the boat’s service life by reducing the weight of the boat, and to reduce the environmental impacts linked to the boatbuilding process. This will be done through the appropriate choice of materials.

We all know that composite materials are a solution for the first weightlowering goal. Life-cycle analyses (LCA) carried out in the motorized transport sector show that the most significant environmental impacts occur during the operational phase, due to the fuel. But we still need to be very careful in the choice of resins and processes, specifically with respect to any volatile organic compounds (VOC) that could be emitted during implementation.

JEC Composites Magazine: You are now involved in the Plastic Odyssey adventure. What are its characteristics and goals?
A. R. & F. F.: The Fondation de la Mer put us into contact with the Plastic Odyssey association through Ship as a Service (SAS), one of the consortium members. SAS presented its project to operate our 24-metre ocean research vessel, which was designed by the naval architect, Olivier Racoupeau.

Their project is a fascinating one that proposes a real solution to combat pollution from the plastic waste on our planet, particularly in the oceans. Their solution is to keep plastic waste from reaching the seas by giving them value. As the project members say (quite rightly), “when you have a big leak, you start to seal off the leak before mopping up!” So the project consists of a three year expedition to the most polluted coastlines, like Africa and Asia, on a 24-metre catamaran equipped with a plastic waste recycling centre. The catamaran will be propelled by the plastic waste, which will be gathered at each stopover, then sorted and recycled. The non recyclable waste will be converted into fuel by pyrolysis to power the boat engines. This demonstrator ship will also serve as a workshop to build and test low tech and open source machines. The expedition provides the opportunity to address the realities out in the field and to adapt the solutions to suit local needs. These technologies will be spread worldwide to help develop local economies while eliminating a source of environmental pollution. In that frame of reference, we would like to contribute our expertise in shipbuilding and ecodesigned materials to maintain a truly exemplary environmental approach in the wake of their project, against the backdrop of the U.N. Blue Growth Initiative. We would like to help them define an ambassador ship designed to assemble all the expected multiple uses.

JEC Composites Magazine: How do you source the composites used? What specific characteristics do you expect them to have?
A. R. & F. F.:
The hull of the 25-m boat will be built of composite panels that consist of a wooden core covered with glass/ epoxy skins. The skins give the assembled panels good mechanical strength and resistance to water ageing, thus guaranteeing a long service life for the hull. The use of a wooden frame significantly reduces the use of non renewable materials, glass fibre and resin. In addition, the choice of an epoxy resin has been proven to be the best one so far in terms of technical and environmental performance, in particular with respect to VOCs. The use of a partially biosourced resin could even be considered.

JEC Composites Magazine: What solutions does your project propose for end-of-life composite materials?
A. R. & F. F.: End-of-life (EOL) issues are of course the weak point of composite solutions because, so far, they are not being recycled, unlike aluminium. However, the association for boat recycling APER has established that upgrading solutions in cement manufacture do exist, and a number of studies have demonstrated the technical feasibility of upgrading ground composite materials. Our consortium would like to contribute to the development of such recycling streams.

But before the EOL phase for the materials, we can work towards achieving the longest possible service lives for our boats. IMOS will also be developing this topic, using the adaptability and upgradability of the boats to enable several life cycles as a frame of reference. Experimenting with recyclable resins (recyclable thermoplastic or epoxy resin) is also being considered, although this option currently appears to be difficult to apply at an industrial scale.

JEC Composites Magazine: What projects do you have in store?
A. R. & F. F.: IMOS is also working on the design of an 8-metre inshore boat that can be transported by road. That is a specific feature, over and above the use related and technological innovations included in our range of boats. This boat is also ecodesigned by our consortium and drawn up by the architect Thomas Serré from SB Yacht Design. The boat will be built in recyclable highdensity polyethylene (HDPE) by the Le Camus shipyard, for our partner Ship As a Service. Over the medium to long term, IMOS will initiate its R&D strategy so that it can pursue its goals for environmental and societal innovation. IMOS’s focus and collective interest is an ecodesign that helps its beneficiaries to improve practices along the value chain (for example, adhesives for marine grade plywood, or continued work on recyclable, low VOC emitting resins).

For that, IMOS needs to become a hub for application and an “open source” with links to one or more research laboratories. In this way, IMOS would like to put its efforts towards a true circular economy strategy by working on all of its components, i.e.:

- Ecodesign
- Industrial ecology
- Economy of functionality
- Collaborative economy

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