Data analysis and VSAT enable Seacat Services to maintain high crew transfer vessel availability and add value to windfarm operators, says managing director Ian Baylis
Digitalisation and fast satellite communications paid for itself in months for offshore support vessel operator Seacat Services. It uses data analytics and VSAT for motion monitoring and preventative maintenance across its fleet of 14 crew transfer vessels (CTVs) to maximise vessel availability.
The UK-headquartered operator monitors engine condition and performance to avoid removing its assets from service.
Seacat Services managing director Captain Ian Baylis says digitalisation has been part of the company’s core since it started operations in 2012.
“It is part of our mission statement that fundamentally we will keep in front of developments,” he tells Maritime Digitalisation & Communications.
“We use digitalisation to maximise uptime and availability of the fleet to benefit all stakeholders,” says Mr Baylis. “Safety is most important to us and then availability. Customers want our vessels available for 25 hours a day and 366 days a year.”
Seacat uses Reygar’s BareFleet vessel monitoring and fleet management software for predictive maintenance, motion analysis and daily reporting. “In the first few months it paid for itself,” says Mr Baylis. Seacat also uses software to manage vessel compliance, contracts, crewing and finance.
“We use digitalisation to maximise uptime and availability of the fleet to benefit all stakeholders”
BareFleet’s vessel motion monitoring function is important as Seacat’s vessels need to ensure the comfort of their passengers. BareFleet collates data from hundreds of sensors on engineroom systems and transmits them to shore.
“We have 440 alarms on an engine, 20 of these advise us not to start the engine if the alarm goes off,” Mr Baylis explains.
These alerts go to the vessel managers’ mobile phones and they then advise crew not to start the engines until they have been checked.
“We can do a lot of predictive maintenance using the alarms and trends of engines’ performance,” says Mr Baylis.
Seacat can also monitor crew performance. “We look at trends in engine revolutions and assess masters’ performance,” he continues. “We can identify gaps in crew training.”
The company also monitors the force of contact between its vessels and wind turbine foundations during technician transfers. “We identify slightly harder landings, and if these are regular, we assess the trend to see when vessels may need new fenders,” Mr Baylis says.
All data is transmitted from vessels to shore over a Ku-band VSAT satellite link. “We can see trends, alarms and alerts,” says Mr Baylis. “We are monitoring control-pitch propellers, waterjets and vibrations on drive lines. We can then interrogate engine performance and identify safety events.”
A major advantage from its early digitalisation adoption is Seacat’s ability to use years of trend data to improve operations.
“We get monthly summaries and can identify anomalies and investigate them,” says Mr Baylis. Data trends can also demonstrate performance and value to Seacat’s clients.
He explains that during one incident a vessel lost power from one engine on its voyage back to port at the end of the day. “We could show the client there was no loss of time or business,” he says. “We were able to get technicians to the vessel for engine maintenance, and the vessel was ready for work the next day.”
Vessel performance information can also be used to add value to windfarm operators. “We can share some of the data with clients and advise them on optimising scheduling wind turbine maintenance to save fuel,” says Mr Baylis.
“We can also use live data over VSAT to track personnel and their certification.”
Sharing vessel motion and performance data with clients enables both parties to mitigate downtime risk and co-operate in optimising CTV use.
Seacat has installed VSAT on all its vessels using an Intellian 60-cm antenna on each vessel and unlimited data bundles. “We do not need the fastest broadband and or high bandwidth, but VSAT transfers BareFleet data, crew email and audible voice services,” he says.
“We use VSAT to send documents, such as certificates and permits to work, or we can change the manifest.
This vital link comes at little capital cost. “We lease the VSAT equipment and airtime, so when the technology becomes obsolete we can swap it out,” says Mr Baylis. Some of the vessels also have 4G amplifiers so crew can use coastal and terrestrial mobile phone networks on the CTVs.
Most of the communications systems, including VSAT and the global maritime distress satellite system radio is supplied by Glasgow, Scotland-headquartered Boat Electrics & Electronics. It also supplies CTV bridge systems, which include ECDIS, radar, automatic identification system, satellite compass and GPS.
Seacat will continue developing its monitoring and analysis as its customers build advanced data and control rooms for their windfarms. “They display wind turbine information on huge screens and can see at a glance their status and if there are any issues,” says Mr Baylis. “They have emergency response rooms for the time there is a problem or accident on a turbine.
“Our clients are being intelligent about their maintenance by including weather information and oil viscosity sensors.” Which is why Seacat needed to demonstrate its value for providing crew transfer services. “Customers wanted vessel monitoring systems, so we needed our own data on vessel performance.”
This value is derived from providing performance information to optimise windfarm operations. As Mr Baylis says, “digitalisation is at the core of Seacat’s DNA”.
Seacat fleet expanded with new catamaran order
Seacat Services operates a fleet of 14 offshore energy support vessels, all built with aluminium hulls in the Isle of Wight, UK. These catamarans range from 21-27 m in length and transfer technicians to offshore wind turbines around the UK and across the North Sea. Seacat’s vessels are maintained within DNV GL class and are capable of carrying large cargo payloads and groups of technicians. They have Twistlock mounts on deck to securely transport containerised goods.
In April 2019, Seacat ordered a new vessel from Isle of Wight’s Diverse Marine and Aluminium Marine Consultants. Seacat Weatherly will be built to a Chartwell Marine design as a 24-m catamaran. There is an option to build a sister vessel after this one.
Since 2012, the company has provided crew transfers to 35 windfarms in northern Europe. It has worked on 130 contracts for 24 customers. These are mostly windfarm operators such as Equinor, Ørsted and Scottish & Southern Energy, or Tier I subcontractors that maintain wind turbines. The company operates within the ISM Code and standards ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.
Snapshot CV: Ian Baylis
Ian Baylis has been managing director of Seacat Services since 2010. He is responsible for managing the evolution, development and growth of the fleet. Mr Baylis holds his Masters COC and has spent 12 years in command of ships, latterly on crew transfer vessels.
Prior to his work within the offshore wind industry, he worked within commercial vessel operations. He actively campaigns to develop future standards and best practice in the international offshore energy markets.