Notable Achievement in Naval Architecture and/or Marine Engineering
The 2016 David W. Taylor Medalist
Professor Dracos Vassalos’ motto is “safety enhancement through innovation”, a maxim he has pursued over a 40-year career in industry and academia, promoting the use of scientific approaches in maritime safety. This is particularly important for knowledge-intensive and safety-critical ships, where the need for innovation creates unprecedented safety challenges. Tackling this challenge head-on, Dracos set up a Safety Research Centre in the mid-1990s to spearhead a €150M safety research campaign that generated, over a 20-year period, the requisite knowledge to introduce an original design paradigm that embeds safety as a design goal (“Design for Safety”), achieved through first principles. This process catalyzed the development of goal-based legislation, that is, the utilization of first-principles risk assessment tools to foster cost-effective safety improvement. The initiative transformed maritime safety from prescriptive-rule-compliance to risk-informed assessment, leading to changes in the way safety is perceived, the full impact of which is still being delivered. Professor Vassalos has always stood for the highest standards of integrity, professionalism and the desire to improve the safety of life at sea. In standing by those goals he has inspired these same values in all his students and those who have had the privilege to work alongside him. The development of a design methodology that has enhanced the safety level of ships, and been widely adopted in the commercial marine industry, demonstrates his lifelong commitment and contribution to the profession.
Professor Vassalos has been instrumental in transforming maritime safety, the full impact of which is yet to be realized. The ensuing formalized design methodology is paving the way for step changes in ship design and operation, targeting zero tolerance in human life loss and environmental impact.