Offshore access specialist Ampelmann has unveiled a new walk-to-work system developed for the fast-growing service operation vessel (SOV) market
With around 30 new SOVs required in the global offshore wind market by 2030, Ampelmann decided to develop an offshore access system that exactly meets the requirements of service ships. The innovative concept integrates the system into a tower that raises the gangway to the required lifting height.
In a significant departure for the company, the new system does not use Ampelmann’s hexapod motion-compensation platform, which has formed the basis of its offerings for more than a decade, although the company will continue to offer products based on the hexapod for applications that do not require a high level of integration into a vessel.
In an exclusive interview, Ampelmann business development manager Caspar Blum said the company’s objective in the development of the Ampelmann SOV access system was a solution that is fully integrated into a vessel, that provides stepless transfer for windfarm technicians, from their cabins to the transition piece on a wind turbine.
Another important objective with the Ampelmann SOV is to provide a system to the market that is ideally suited to use with larger, next-generation offshore wind turbines, such as GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade-X and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy’s new 14-MW turbine.
Mr Blum told OWJ that, typically, a gangway on an SOV might be required to lift windfarm personnel to 20-25 m above sea level, but that this is changing as turbines grow and as new markets emerge. In the French market, he said, conditions are such that gangways could be required to transfer windfarm technicians to 28-30 m.
He explained that emerging requirements for SOVs suggest that transfers will also need to be undertaken at greater heights in the Taiwanese market. For projects where transfer heights are particularly high, Ampelmann can offer a higher tower than that in the standard system.
Mr Blum said a tender for 3-4 SOVs for UK projects on the Dogger Bank in the North Sea had been issued recently for which transfer heights of 20-25 m and the ability to safely conduct transfers in Hs 3.5 m have been stipulated. This latter requirement is believed to be a first for the market.
“It is all about meeting the needs of people, the windfarm technicians on the vessel, and about efficient people and cargo flow, from the vessel onto the turbine,” Mr Blum said of the new system. “Putting the system in the tower provides the seamless integration that is required.”
Another advantage of the new system is that it is adapted for use with different turbines, on different windfarms and in different tidal conditions.
With the gangway moving up and down in the tower, the Ampelmann SOV uses gangway stroke and luffing to provide full 3-D motion compensation, but unlike some of its competitors, it is able to transfer personnel and cargo in a significant wave height of up to 3.5 m (3.5 Hs).
Another advantage of the new system is that it is fully electrically powered, minimising the carbon footprint of offshore operations. The height of the gangway can be adjusted by more than 10 m. Continuous access is made possible by an elevator that brings personnel from the vessel directly to the gangway, and because the system is fully integrated into the vessel it has a reduced footprint.
Ampelmann will be offering the new system with gangways of 27.9 m or 31.9 m. The 27.9 m gangway will operate in conventional fashion, to one side of a vessel, but the 31.9 m unit will provide additional operability by operating to either side of a vessel. This will enable a vessel to adopt the most suitable heading for an approach to a turbine and select a heading that will minimise motions.
Mr Blum said the new access system is designed to lift 1 tonne in crane mode, but a more capable 2-tonne lifting capability will be available as an upgrade. It is designed for 400 kg trolleys and will have auto-landing assist functionality.
The Ampelmann SOV system is also being offered with the company’s personnel tracking system that uses a card reader or a chip worn by windfarm technicians to monitor their whereabouts at all times while at work to enhance safety.
As part of the company’s service offering with the SOV system, it is also offering ‘Ampelmann Insights,’ a data-driven platform that uses sensors to track a number of key data points throughout the operation of the gangway and the vessel on which it is installed.
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