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Prof Annie Bekker

Inaugural lecture:

May 12, 2022 @ 17:3018:30

What we can learn from the way a ship shudders on an icy wreck hunt

The SA Agulhas II is a polar vessel – and the only ship of her kind owned by any country in Africa. Her missions require navigation in the volatile Southern Ocean and remote Antarctic ice. Her expansive structure has been equipped with an ‘engineering nervous system’, in which sensors and models are used to pinpoint every impact and shudder as she interacts with her dynamic environment. This research seeks to develop a ‘digital SA Agulhas II’ where data and models prototype a ‘Flagship for Vessel 4.0’ with the aim to support strategic, tactical and operational decisions towards insight and foresight in ships of the future.

In February 2022, the SA Agulhas II embarked on the Endurance22 Expedition to the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. This was her second attempt to platform the search for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s wreck, Endurance, which was crushed by the immense force of ice in 1915. The ice-going limits of this modern vessel would be challenged by the effort to navigate through multi-year ice in one of the most remote and sparsely chartered areas on earth. Here follows the story of how sensor data and engineering models of ship vibration can augment the ability of seafarers and ship designers towards safer ship operations and vessel management.


Short biography

Anriëtte (Annie) Bekker discovered her passion for test engineering and the vibration of structures as a third-year student in Mechanical Engineering at Stellenbosch University. This versatile field has springboarded her diverse research in topics including dynamic seat comfort in automotive vehicles for Ford Motor Company and the prediction of bone fracture of vehicle occupants during landmine blast events for the Armaments Corporation of South Africa. In industry, she worked as the technical lead on noise, vibration and harshness for Optimal Energy on the noise and psychoacoustic responses that “compose” a positive driving experience for the emerging electric vehicle market. She joined the Faculty of Engineering at Stellenbosch University in July 2011 where she has been a professor since 2020. She has led multi-sensor measurement campaigns on the heavy mobile equipment fleet for Richards Bay Minerals and polar vessels including the South African SA Agulhas II and the German Polarstern. Presently, her work proposes to reap novelty from the niche created by digital twins where operational data is fed to engineering models. These technologies deliver increasingly rapid information that can enable stakeholders to make better decisions about the management and operation of their assets. She is registered as a professional engineer with the Engineering Council of South Africa and is an NRF rated researcher. Her publishing record includes 24 journal articles and 38 articles in academic proceedings. Annie is married to Bernard and the mother of three children, Aardt (9) and twins Berto and Lena (6).

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May 12, 2022

Organizer (event)

Amira Brown


Reitz Hall, Engineering Faculty
156 Banghoek Road, Stellenbosch Central
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7605 South Africa
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