Maritime Technology for the Other 90% of Us


Design for the Other 90% of Us [1] is a movement to create appropriate technologies that are robust, easy to construct, easy to repair, and inexpensive to procure and maintain.  Examples are straws that contain filters for purifying drinking water, water pumps made out of bicycle parts, and water carriers in the shape of tires so they can be rolled.  Other designs include solar powered lights and ovens, and heavy load-bearing bicycles.   Indeed the diffusion of cheap technologies, like antibiotics and vaccines has been credited with increasing the survivability of newborns and the average lifespan [2].  Other technologies like the cellphones that allow farmers to get market information enhance the possibility of economic development.  New technologies include use of new processes –for streamlining educational, health or transport systems.  Finally although these technologies are designed for the other 90% of us, they are actually for all of us.  All of us can appreciate the ingenuity and all find useful technologies that are robust and all off the grid living.


Needed now are technologies that improve maritime transport for the 90% of us. [3]  Water is the cheapest form of transportation and in many places, archipelagos like Indonesia and Philippines, and river deltas like Bangladesh, the major form of transport.  Water transport in these places can also be unsafe because of cost of new builds and poor retrofits of after market vessels, poor vessel design, inadequate training, sudden hazardous weather with insufficient communication warning vessel operators, and processes that don’t prevent overcrowding. [4]  Although there is as yet no formal program to consciously design domestic maritime transport for the other 90% of us, there have been some effective approaches.  This initiative seeks to gather these approaches together and to promote conscious design for the domestic maritime industry for the 90% of us to enable products and operations that are safer, more accessible and more sustainable.


For maritime technology and design, categories would include:


Materials and maintenance

·         For steel vessels – maintenance is important

o   Opportunity could be for low cost high quality coatings, inexpensive paints and anti-fouling materials

·         Plywood is used in Thailand although wood construction is subject to decay in tropical environments

·         Alternative material Ferro cement see; requires laborious work.  Can be heavy; what is status of light form sought by US Navy.

·         Composites?


Construction: Design

·         UN FAO had a study for fishing boat design

·         DNV has had an initiative for standardization of domestic maritime vessels.


Construction: Process

·         More extensive standardization of components

·         Question of use of surplus vessels?  Would guidelines for retrofit be appropriate?

·         Hull shape optimization can be readily tested by computer assisted design


Fuel and propulsion

·         Yamaha motors are a third world standard –new outboard electronic injection

·         Reciprocating steam engines can burn anything – wood, gas, bagasse



·         Crew training

            Exportable highly visual course available (DVD or download)

·         Hazardous weather detection

            Chatty beetle


Safety systems

·         Fire fighting system

            Mist instead of greenhouse gases – lower tech and effective



·         Automated Identification Systems (class B): Could improvements replace radar (which is difficult to maintain in some circumstances) instead of merely supplementing it?


Telecommunications/Information Technology

·         Telecoms should be add on – like cellphones -- and not physically built into the communication system.  (More readily repairable, upgradeable).

·         IT systems should not be built into the control system – but also should be add on – like laptop – so can be repairable, replaceable, or upgradeable by operator


Advisory Committee (In formation)

[2] Charles Kenny, "Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding—And How We Can Improve the World Even More", Basic Books, 2011

[3] Maritime design and technology is not part of the portfolio of Design for the Other 90% of Us; Design that Matters; Engineers Without Borders; or the US Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.

[4] "Ferry Transport: The Realm of Responsibility for Disasters in Developing Countries." By Catherine Lawson and Roberta Weisbrod, J. Public Transport., Vol. 8 No. 4 (2005).