Airbag ship launching is a vessel launching method that supports the ship on a special marine rubber airbags and moves it from the repair and construction site into the water.
Ship launching airbags are specialized rubber air bags that are used for launching vessels. These rubber air bags are made of inner and outer rubber layers with synthetic-tire-cord reinforcement layers, and are also known as marine airbags or ship launching balloons.
The history of airbag launching technology
The ship launching airbags were invented in 1980. The first known use of marine airbags occurred on January 20, 1981 with the launch of a tank barge from the Xiao Qinghe shipyard. From then on, more and more shipyards began to use air bags to launch small and medium-sized vessels, especially in China and Southeast Asia.
During the ten years from 1981 to 1990, due to the insufficient pressure load capacity of the airbag airbag, the launch weight of the marine airbag always hovered below 500 tons. Failure to use airbags to launch ships sometimes occurs.
Until the 1990s, with the change of airbag raw materials, the continuous improvement of the structure of the airbag body and the continuous improvement of the manufacturing process, the carrying capacity of the airbag has been significantly improved, and the weight of launching ships has continuously created new records.
The fifth-generation high-pressure airbag, which was successfully trial-produced in 1996, is a rubber airbag formed by six layers of nylon cords, with a burst pressure of 1.11MPa. In 2000, the successful development of the high-capacity kneading airbag was another milestone in the leap of airbag launching technology.
In recent years, higher strength materials have been used in air bag production, allowing them to have much more bearing capacity. Hence, they have begun to be used at the launching of larger vessels. In October 2011, the successful launch of one vessel with a dead-weight tonnage (DWT) of 75000 tonnes set a world record for ship launches utilizing air bags. The following year, on June 6, 2012, the ship “He Ming” (IMO number 9657105), with a DWT of 73541 tonnes, total length of 224.8m, breadth of 34m, and depth of 18.5m, also launched successfully using air bags.
Application status of air bag launching
After more than 40 years of practice and improvement, the airbag launching technology has become increasingly mature. With the rise of tidal flat shipbuilding in various countries, the promotion and development of marine airbag launching technology has been promoted. Because it does not require a regular site, the beaches on the seashore and the silted land on the river bank can be used. Its flexibility not only compensates for the unevenness of the site, but also has a large contact area that makes the bottom of the ship evenly pressured.
The airbag launching technology provides a broad prospect for the technological transformation and development of small and medium-sized shipyards around the world due to its remarkable advantages such as labor saving, time saving, investment saving, maneuverability and flexibility, safety and reliability. The “Medium and Long-term Development Plan for the Shipbuilding Industry” adopted in August 2006 has included the launching of ship airbags into the scope of basic requirements. It is stipulated that ships produced by enterprises of all levels and types of Class II and Class I and below are allowed to use airbag launching methods. The second-class and first-class ship production enterprises are allowed to produce ships up to 180m in length. The promulgation of this plan provides an opportunity for the development of the airbag launching process. Ship airbag launching technology not only promotes the progress of my country’s shipbuilding industry, but also attracts more and more attention and use of foreign shipyards.
Application prospects of airbag launching
Some private capital’s interest in shipbuilding investment has increased, and a batch of shipyards suitable for the construction of 20,000 to 50,000 DWT have begun to be built. In order to reduce investment and accelerate the rate of return on investment, they are eager to adopt low cost, low consumption, low pollution, high efficiency, and high reliability. The flexible, flexible airbag launching and launching process has come to fulfill their dream of building a big ship. Therefore, the airbag launching and launching process for large ships has a broad market prospect. There is also a broad market demand in Southeast Asia and developing countries near the sea.
Airbag launching, as a new shipbuilding technology of China’s independent innovation, has achieved world-renowned achievements after nearly 40 years of practice and improvement, and has made a real contribution to the world’s shipbuilding technology. Airbag launching is a new technology independently innovated by China, and it is currently at the world’s leading level. The future development must be scientific research first, and the advantages of science and technology will be used to drive the advantages of the industry.
To become a world-class shipbuilding country, China must also take a path of independent innovation with Chinese characteristics. Change the situation of high investment, high consumption, and low resource utilization, and develop an advanced shipbuilding model with its own intellectual property rights. The flexible launching method based on flexible airbags is an incubator of advanced shipbuilding models. The so-called advanced shipbuilding model is to organize specialized production according to similar theories, and to flexibly configure production factors according to production objects. And its prerequisite is to have a flexible vessel launching and launching process and technical equipment. The flexible launching technology based on flexible airbags just meets the requirements of the advanced shipbuilding model in the future, so it has a broad development prospect.
Airbag launching only requires a simple launching ramp (slideway), and does not need to extend to the water, which greatly reduces the capital construction investment of the slipway and the slipway, and reduces the environmental impact on the navigation channel and the river bank. The airbag can be quickly recovered after use, and does not cause any pollution to the water area. The airbag launching operation can be subcontracted to a professional launching engineering team to do it, thereby optimizing the allocation of resources, increasing the utilization rate, and reducing production costs. These advantages are not only favored by the Chinese shipbuilding industry, but also favored by some developed shipbuilding countries. Such a strategically significant innovative shipbuilding technology is bound to have a profound impact on the development of China’s shipbuilding industry and the progress of world shipbuilding technology.