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Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) have recently gained a great attention in several applications such as environmental monitoring and target tracking. Applying this technology to shipboard monitoring systems may be a cost-effective solution to reduce the cost of wires installation and maintenance. However, wireless communications on board ships may be severely obstructed by the metallic structure of bulkheads. In this paper, we analyze the efficiency of a shipboard WSN by measurement and simulation. A measurement campaign is conducted to study the radio wave propagation and to verify the feasibility of a WSN on board a ship. Based on the measurement results, a hierarchical group-based topology for a large-scale shipboard WSN is proposed. A realistic simulation model of the ship, taking into account the environment particularities, is then performed using OPNET network simulator. Performance of the WSN architecture is evaluated using the ZigBee model. Measurement results show the feasibility of WSN technology on board ships, while simulation results show significant performance of proposed architecture in terms of end-to-end delay and packet delivery ratio.