Designing Flexible Offshore Construction Vessels to Handle Future Uncertainty
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- Institutt for marin teknikk 
This thesis investigates how uncertainty in marine systems design can be handled through designing more flexible vessels. For multi-functional vessels not mainly doing transportation tasks, such as offshore construction vessels, there is a large potential in being able to take contracts not necessarily accounted for in the initial specification. Thus, there is a need to identify and value functional flexibility in offshore construction vessel designs, and to evaluate the existing methodologies for decision making under uncertainty that can be applied. We want to evaluate modifications of the vessel, through removing obsolete systems and installing systems adhering to current requirements. The primary research question for the thesis is therefore: How do we identify and value functional flexibility in offshore construction vessel designs, subject to uncertain future operating contexts? Secondary, the thesis also seeks to answer an additional research question: Which methodologies exist for decision making under uncertainty that can be successfully applied in marine systems design, and how do they guide stakeholders towards great decisions? We argue that there are several paradigms for decision making that may be applied, each emphasizing different aspects of uncertainty and the notion of value. Novel systems engineering methods applied, such as Epoch-Era Analysis and the Responsive Systems Comparison method has a wide approach to value, accounting for stakeholder perception and context under uncertainty. The Responsive Systems Comparison method can be applied as a complete designmethodology under uncertainty. Real Options Analysis fromthe financial paradigm treats valuein a solely monetary way, and represents techniques for valuing flexibility. However, applying financial techniques in engineering systems poses a challenge. Monte Carlo Simulation solves some of the issues with real options in systems, but not the issue of actually identifying what system elements constitute interesting real options. For this, we introduce rules for transitioning between alternative concepts in the design space. To test whether the Responsive Systems Comparison method and the RealOptions Analysis withMonte Carlo Simulation are good approaches to answering the research questions, we developa case study. The case study concerns an offshore construction vessel that can compete in four markets with developing contract requirements and economic uncertainty. The aim is to enable stakeholders to select a design that not only provides value at the first contract, but remains valuable throughout its lifetime, if necessary by altering the design itself. The model consists of the steps of the Responsive Systems Comparison method, withMonte Carlo Simulation for Real Options Analysis in the final step. The results show that flexibility generate added value, both through reducing the downside risk and increasing the upside. We obtain flexible strategies that show us possible ways to transition the design towards alternative solutions, that are able to comply with the requirements of more valuable contract opportunities. This analysis is based on the Real Options Analysis using purely monetary measures of value, while the earlier Epoch-Era Analysis base value on the system capabilities in an engineering fashion. This causes some divergence in the results, as different conclusions regarding what constitutes a good design can be reached according to which of the analyses we apply. The divergence may not be a drawback, but may actually constitute an advantage as it facilitates a very broad discussion on the value of designs under uncertainty. While the results indicate that flexibility is valuable, there are drawbacks related to the exercise of flexibility in ships, that are not accounted for in the modeling. An important risk that is not considered, is associated to shipbuilding projects. There are many other sources of uncertainty in marine systems that needs to be explored, and are not properly assessed by this model. Another need for further work exists in integrating Real Options Analysis into the Responsive Systems Comparison method, especially with respect to the question of how to properly quantify system value and performance under uncertainty.