UNO picked to design largest accessible tall ship in the world

Published: Nov. 5, 2013 at 4:42 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 5, 2013 at 4:45 PM CST
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New Orleans, La.- The University of New Orleans announced that its School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering has partnered with the nonprofit organization America's Freedom Sailor to help design the largest accessible tall ship in the world, and the only one in the United States.

Five UNO students, assisted by three faculty members, will perform the design work as part of their senior project during the spring 2014 semester. The preliminary ship design will be completed in May.

The mission of America's Freedom Sailor, a New Orleans-based nonprofit, is to build a universal design tall ship that is accessible to people of every physical disability. Universal design refers to a philosophy of designing and building environments that are usable to everyone, regardless of age or ability.

The organization is also partnering with the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA) at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, which will provide expertise on the accessibility of the vessel.

"To my knowledge, there are many accessible vessels in the world but there has never been a vessel built on the principle of universal design," said Jan Olijve, co-founder and executive director of America's Freedom Sailor. "With the design team of UNO's School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and the IDEA Center at SUNY Buffalo, this is an adventure of a lifetime for all of us. When we fulfill our mission, the group will set a new worldwide standard for shipbuilding."

UNO's School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering is the only one of its kind in the Gulf Coast region and one of the few in the nation.   It was established in 1980 at the request of the local shipbuilding industry.  UNO says the program produces well-prepared graduates who are in high demand in the fields of naval architecture and marine engineering.

"The design of a large sailing vessel in our age of motorized transport is a unique challenge," said Lothar Birk, professor and chair of the School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. "Incorporating features of universal design will further strengthen our students' abilities in system integration and interdisciplinary work."

The goal is for the ship to be built by 2017, one year before New Orleans celebrates its tricentennial.

There are more than 70 million Americans with disabilities," said Ashley Salmen, co-founder and chair of the board of America's Freedom Sailor. "The time is now to have a specialized sailing vessel that exposes all Americans to the unparalleled joy and freedom of sailing. And as a major port city, New Orleans is the perfect place to launch this project."