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World leading maritime safety expert elected as Royal Academy of Engineering Fellow

View of John Anderson Campus from the north

Professor of Maritime Safety at the Department of Naval Architecture, Ocean and Marine Engineering at Strathclyde, Dracos Vassalos has been elected as a Fellow of the elite Royal Academy of Engineering.

He joins engineers from around the world whose outstanding and continuing contributions have been recognised through the Fellowship, which is one of the highest honours for the profession in the UK. The internationally renowned maritime safety expert promotes the use of scientific approaches to address challenges in the industry and transfers research advances into innovative solutions.

He modernised maritime safety, by introducing the ‘Design for Safety’ concept. His forensic investigations into the sinking of the largest British registered merchant ship ever to be lost at sea, the bulk carrier MV Derbyshire and the cruise ferry, MS Estonia, led to step changes in maritime safety legislation.

Headshot of Professor Dracos Vassalos

All 44 people on board died on the Derbyshire in 1980 when she sank in the South China Seas during typhoon Orchid and 852 lives were lost on the MS Estonia, when she sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994.

The researcher also invented an expandable foam system to prevent ships from sinking or capsizing after damage, which could potentially save thousands of lives in maritime accidents.

Professor Atilla Incecik, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, said: “On behalf of all my colleagues in the Faculty of Engineering, I would like to congratulate Dracos on this fantastic achievement.

“Being recognised in this way by the Royal Academy of Engineering is testament to the difference he has made through his research and teaching.”

Professor Vassalos said: “I feel very humbled to be elected as Fellow and to be recognised in this way, and also very proud.”

The professor was also instrumental in merging the Naval Architecture departments from Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities in 2001, bringing together a combined history in Naval Architecture of around 250 years.  The merged department, part of the Faculty of Engineering at the Strathclyde, is now one of the largest and most research active marine departments worldwide.

He was the founder of the first Centre of Excellence on Maritime Safety Research in a University environment, aimed at fostering international collaboration and scientific approaches in maritime safety.

The academic also received a Life Achievement Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2011 in recognition of his contribution to maritime safety.

Strathclyde Principal and Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Jim McDonald was elected as President of the Royal Academy of Engineering in October 2019, becoming the first Scottish holder of the office.