Making his comments at the Riviera Maritime Media webinar The future OSV – what will it look like?, SEACOR Marine’s vice president of engineering Tim Clerc described the present day high-end OSV as one that will be increasingly specified with diesel-electric propulsion
By 2025, unless there is capacity for further investment, he said the high-end OSV will look very much the same, with “the only difference is that it will be five years older.”
Over his 40 years in the offshore oil and gas business, Mr Clerc has watched closely the evolution of OSVs, transforming today into highly specialised vessels. In his role at SEACOR Marine and as a member of the company’s new Sustainability Council, he is seeing demands for more specialisation first-hand as stakeholders’ pressure for lower emissions continues to increase.
Further evolution will be driven by environmental regulatory compliance, targeting reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonisation. To accomplish this, owners will be required to make significantly more investment underpinned by profitability. Mr Clerc points out that current market conditions and depressed vessel day rates in the offshore oil and gas market are major barriers to such investment.
“Very low charter rates will not allow for the investment needed to build the new vessels that incorporate the required technology,” contended Mr Clerc.
Winds of change
The growing offshore wind market is proving fertile ground for innovation. A new generation of service operations vessels (SOVs) could well provide a glimpse into the future design of OSVs.
“With a greater likelihood of profitability from the operation of SOVs, the existing technology from the OSV to the SOV will reverse. The future technological investments for OSVs will be driven by the successful implementation of the new tech in SOVs,” said Mr Clerc. Walk-to-work solutions, for instance, are becoming more common on OSVs.
New propulsion technologies and hull forms developed for offshore renewables could well find their way into the offshore oil and gas market. SEACOR Marine has been a leader in investing in battery hybrid propulsion for its platform supply vessel fleet, but its offshore wind crew transfer vessel arm, Windcat Workboats, has gone a step further.
Windcat Workboats is working with CMB.Tech to develop Hydrocat 1, a prototype CTV that utilises hydrogen-diesel co-combustion. Through its joint venture BeHydro, CMB has unveiled a larger four-stroke medium-speed hydrogen dual-fuel engine that could find applications in larger vessels.
With emissions reduction being the biggest challenge, Mr Clerc emphasised that investment must first focus on the environmental aspects of the OSV operation. He said the goal needs to be to “burn cleaner, burn less fuel with the goal of significantly reducing emissions, while at the same time, hopefully, reducing opex.”
Shipping has invested in LNG and methanol, but he sees these alternative fuels as only transitional solutions. “These fuels will simply not get us to IMO 2050,” he said adding “there are still valid concerns” regarding methane emissions from LNG, “particularly when we look at the well to wake numbers and their greenhouse warming potential.”
He feels the best way forward for industry is hydrogen or ammonia fuel cells backed up by energy storage. Both fuels would need to be produced in a low carbon or carbon neutral way, but that is currently expensive. “We need massive scale of renewables for the production of green hydrogen.”
Alternative fuels are also less energy dense than diesel, leading to the loss of storage on board or deadweight or sacrifices in vessel range and endurance.
So, what is the way forward for the future OSV? “All stakeholders must be prepared to make the required investment,” said Mr Clerc. “This starts with increased charter rates for those owners committed to decarbonisation.”
He also believes incentives in the form of preferential surveys from flag and port states and the expansion of the Poseidon Principles to smaller-scale investments and for vessels below 5,000 gt would boost the sector.
“The marine environment is our workplace,” concluded Mr Clerc. “The health of the world depends on the health of our oceans. The decarbonisation of shipping is non-negotiable.”
SEACOR Marine recognises the role OSV operators have to play in supporting sustainable practices across the industry. SEACOR Marine has recently launched an enhanced programme to support the transition to a lower carbon economy and sustainable practices.
The future OSV checklist
What features should the future OSV have?
Riviera is hosting a week of free to attend 45-minute webinars focused on marine propulsion commencing 29 September. Register your interest now