The design and analysis of structural strength against fatigue failure always includes large uncertainties. It is crucial to understand and identify the most important uncertainties that affect the performance, functionality and service life of an engineering structure — in particular when it comes to the safety aspect, which may involve the risk of loss of human lives. In maritime industry, it is known that due to various sources of uncertainties in ship fatigue design, some ships may survive (the occurrence of fatigue cracks which may endanger the structural integrity) much longer than their designed life, while other ships develop fatigue cracks far too early. The current investigation presents some of the most important uncertainties and their effects on the accuracy of fatigue assessments in a container vessel.
The study emphasizes the analysis of the fatigue damage variation when the ship is sailing on different routings between two ports. A fatigue model developed by the authors for ship fatigue routing application is employed to estimate the long term fatigue damage. In this model, only a few parameters, i.e. the encountered significant wave height and operational profiles, are needed. The procedure of using this model for a ship fatigue routing design is described in detail. Its potential use and benefits are demonstrated in a case study by a 2,800 TEU container ship using both full-scale measurements and hindcast wave data. It is shown that awareness and careful fatigue routing design can reduce fatigue damage significantly by up to 50%!