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Since first appearing on the USS Delaware in 1920, the bulbous bow has been reducing the drag and resistance as well as increasing the speed of ocean-going vessels.
Introduced by famous U.S. Navy ship architect David W. Taylor, initially acceptance of the bulbous bow was controversial. Widespread acceptance did not occur until a decade later when passenger ships started using the design to increase cruise speed.
The basic concept of the bulbous bow is to create a wave that is diametrically opposed to the wave profile created by the stem bow, thereby canceling each other out and reducing the size and required energy of the combined wave train.
Because the phasing will be unique to shape and profile, one vessel speed will be the most efficient. Any change in voyage cruising speed is reason to reevaluate the bulbous bow configuration.
Since a properly designed bulbous bow operating at the design speed can result in significant fuel savings of 12 to 15 percent and in some conditions as much as 25%, regular engineering review is warranted with any change in operating profile.
Many factors must be considered in designing a bulbous bow for both new-build and retrofit. In addition to model testing, the use of finite element analysis (FEA) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) allows many design variations to be rapidly evaluated, resulting in efficient and accurate design optimization.