Advantages and disadvantages of carbon fibre gangways
Last updated: 27/06/2019
A carbon fibre gangway would help reduce weight on a yacht and improve fuel efficiency without compromising performance or safety, an advancement that would save thousands of pounds in fuel during the life of the yacht. However carbon fibre is not without its faults. Yachting Pages has worked with expert gangway companies to find not only the advantages, but also the disadvantages of choosing a carbon fibre gangway.
What is carbon fibre?
Carbon fibre has special properties making it ideal for many applications on board. When combined with resin to form a composite, it produces parts that are extremely light and rigid.
Carbon fibre’s strength to weight ratio far exceeds that of any metal; it is 70% lighter than steel, 40% lighter than aluminium and 35% lighter than magnesium alloy. Additionally it has optimal energy absorption properties for safety solutions and design flexibility.
Advantages of a carbon fibre gangway
A lightweight solution
Aleksander Scernjavic from Maust, a new innovative gangway designer and manufacturer, said the main benefit to reap from a carbon fibre gangway is dramatically reduced weight. Because of the strength which carbon fibre has, you don’t need as much of it compared to other materials. For example, the tensile strength of aluminium is about 400MPa but the tensile strength of carbon fibre starts from 800MPa and can go up to 5/6,000MPa, which means that the average aluminium gangway (230x40cm) weighs around 19kg and a folding carbon gangway only 6.5kg.
Weight also leads to another advantage; carbon gangways can be very thin. To make a 5mm thick carbon gangway that can handle a high weight is no problem.
This means that the size and weight reduction would make carbon a perfect choice for a portable gangway on small yachts and boats, as it could be handled by a single crew member and stowed away with little room taken up.
Carbon fibre yacht equipment has a unique aesthetic quality, which showcases the ultimate in high-end technology. It would be seen as a luxury part and something that is not easily available.
Disadvantages of a carbon fibre gangway
Aleksander from Maust also went on to say, current methods for production and manufacturing carbon fibre gangways tend to be slow and energy intensive, resulting in high costs.
Carbon gangways cost three times as much as equivalent aluminium ones. For example an average 220x40cm aluminium gangway costs around €650. A folding carbon gangway the same size can cost around €1800 or more. This gangway is painted and you do not see the carbon fibre structure. If you take one where this is visible, it costs about €2900, about four and a half times more than an aluminium one and about one and a half times more than a carbon fibre gangway without visible fibre structure.
Further to this, personalisation will push prices up further and in some cases result in losing some of its advantages, i.e. adding a teak layer for aesthetics will make it heavier.
Carbon gangways are very limited to what can be manufactured, for example if a long gangway is wanted, a hinged fold will need to be added. But this raises an issue; the hinges must take most of the load, so these need to be made stronger resulting in more weight. It's easy to make gangways thinner and about the same weight but to make them thinner and lighter is difficult.
Use with hydraulics
Hydraulic systems are used to lift heavy gangways. There is no reason why carbon fibre cannot be used in conjunction with hydraulics on the stern of a yacht but it would be a lot more costly, it is not a widely available combination and would become a bespoke request.
According to Luke Hendy from Branagh Marine Composites, superyacht owners and project managers are increasingly requesting carbon fibre as the material of choice for a range of aesthetic and structural yacht equipment.
Furthermore with carbon fibre gangways decreasing in cost each year due to manufacturing technologies continuing to improve, the superyacht industry is ready to fully embrace carbon fibre construction.