Clustering feature enables integration of all facilities and control on yacht

Paul Boughton
Through clustering, control environments can reduce the high costs associated with multiple redundancies in hardware, while still ensuring server availability.

With a history of excellence in boat building that stretches back to 1884, Royal Huisman of the Netherlands is able to integrate the best of the old with the technology of the new. Nowhere is this more evident than in the company's latest luxury yacht, the 58-metre Ethereal. This classic yacht employs Citect's latest CitectSCADA V7, with integrated clustering, to achieve a 'less is more strategy', delivering high levels of energy efficiency across all power hungry facilities, and unprecedented levels of distributed data and control to all sections of the vessel, with full redundancy backup.

"The clustering feature in CitectSCADA V7 has been instrumental in enabling us to achieve our objectives with Ethereal," said Sjoerd Schrichte, Manager of the Systems Integration Department at Royal Huisman. "With clustering, we have been able to combine both controls and facilities into a single system, develop a new data distribution system based on multiple touch screens, and still enjoy the benefits of full redundancy. The value of the clustering feature can be judged from the fact that, without it, we would have been looking at a complete system with 15000 points; with clustering our facilities system is just 1500 points, whereas the control system is 15000."

Ethereal is not only a beautiful design, the yacht also breaks new ground in areas of information presentation, bringing this very much into accord with the aesthetics of modern yacht design by adopting touch screen terminals that use the same operating methods (ie sliders and icons) as the latest innovations in terrestrial communication. The touch screens are situated at points all over the vessel - in cabins, dining rooms, lounges, sun deck, steering position - providing information on everything from vessel position, sea depth, wind direction, weather forecast, outside temperatures, and much more.

From the incept of its design for Ethereal, Royal Huisman realised that the way in which data was presented at these screens had to change from the accepted nautical format, to be in accord with the way data is presented in everyday life, thus enabling passengers to assimilate it more simply.

The only problem with this requirement was that it was extremely data intensive. Moreover, the fact that Ethereal is a ground breaking vessel requiring close monitoring and control of facilities such as fridges, freezers and coolers, lighting, generators, heating and air conditioning; in addition to the controls for engines, generators, hydraulic systems, sail handling facilities, bilge and fire alarms and surveillance, meant that the I/O point count for any conventional SCADA system would be astronomical, necessitating splitting the system into definite sections. However, this approach would have been very unwieldy, very expensive and difficult to integrate, especially bearing in mind that the total system has to been supported by dual redundancy.

It is exactly for these types of problems that Citect has developed the Clustering facility in the latest V7 version of CitectSCADA. Through clustering, control environments can reduce the high costs associated with multiple redundancies in hardware, while still ensuring server availability. When combining sites, the clustering approach reduces the cost of control rooms as well as the manpower at those centres without compromising on close-to-process system functionality. Clustering can also be used to split sites into reliable sub-clusters to increase overall system capacity or spread system load.

The Citect system for Ethereral uses Clustering effectively to integrate control, facilities, and new technology data dissemination throughout the vessel. Supplied by Citect's Dutch Distributor, Koning and Hartman, it comprises 26 PLCs, 2 servers and 30 display clients, with EIB drivers used for communication to the rooms on all levels of the vessel. The system continuously monitors variables from sensors throughout the yacht and presents information to the crew and passengers in all areas of the yacht and in a format that is easy to understand; a feature that is generally beneficial, but especially so when the vessel is experiencing bad weather.

The Citect system stores over 100 historical trends and monitors in excess of 1400 alarms, to ensure that if a problem arises the crew are informed instantly. In this respect the built-in redundancy of CitectSCADA is crucial, ensuring that the system remains operational even during hostile sailing conditions.

Complementing the back-up security provided by the CitecSCADA package is another operating safeguard: high levels of system transparency. Employing this feature, an authorised Royal Huisman service manager can, by using the onboard communications network and SatCom interfaces, remotely modify the Citect database or update a PLC program, irrespective of the position of the yacht.

"We originally chose CitectSCADA, back in the late 1990s, for its flexibility and redundancy; and these features are still at the core of our new development with Ethereal, helping us to achieve efficiencies and make the yacht extremely user friendly," said Jan Bokxem, Design Manager at Royal Huisman. "With a project like Ethereal you have to process a lot of data, and decide which data is suitable for each onboard group: for example: alarms, communications, and entertainment. We had to design a system that would not limit this flexibility; and the easiest way we could achieve this by integrating all data requirements into one network.

CitectSCADA provided the flexibility to enable us to achieve this objective. In addition, as the Citect graphical interface was not exactly right for our requirements, the system enabled us to access Citect's base code, CiCode to develop our own alarm system conforming to Lloyd's regulations."

Ethereal is is notable, not only for the levels of technology she offers, and the efficiency she achieves, but also by the fact that she is a totally integrated package. Royal Huisman is one of the very few yards that have all the capabilities: design, fabrication, manufacture, electrical, automation and fitting-out, under one roof to produce what is a truly classic vessel.

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