There have been significant improvements in the process design function in today's shipbuilding industry. There has however been little focus on integrating, perhaps through radical design changes, all the engineering disciplines associated with shipbuilding. A major challenge in U.S. Navy ship design in the 21st Century is ensuring performance and affordability with a reduced crew size while also maintaining high reliability and damage control. This challenge is particularly evident in the design of vessels to meet the Navy's new and emerging needs in the littoral zone. These needs require fast, relatively small vessels capable of operating in the range of weather and ocean conditions encountered in the littoral environment while also meeting the Navy's payload requirements.
The Atlantic Center for the Innovative Design and Control of Small Ships (ACCeSS) was founded in 2002 to address this issue by focusing on two key areas. First is in establishing an environment where engineering disciplines associated with hull design and ship automation can be brought together within the context of the total ship system architecture, thereby facilitating the creative knowledge development, educational changes and discipline integration required for true innovation. Second is the utilization of this unique education and research environment in the recruiting, training and long-term career development of the best and brightest young engineers in the U.S.