A €3.6M (US$4M) European project to study the psychological and physiological wellbeing of turbine technicians being transferred to offshore windfarms in rough water has produced a sail/no sail decision-support tool and new understanding of seasickness and how it develops
Unscheduled operation and maintenance operations on offshore windfarms account for almost 25% of the lifetime costs, but a large portion of that is time wasted in failed crew transfers or workers unable to carry out their duties as a direct result of adverse weather conditions.
The two-year DemoWind2-funded ‘Improving the Safety and Productivity of Offshore Wind Technicians in Transit’ (SPOWTT) project, co-ordinated by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult through its O&M Centre of Excellence collaboration with the University of Hull, involved seven partners. These included Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, the University of Hull, marine co-ordinators SMC Ltd, Dutch research institutes MARIN and TNO, and BMO Offshore, a data service provider to the offshore wind industry.
The data-driven model used by the project partners sought to understand the complex relationship between environmental conditions and vessel design and their combined impact on technicians and has provided new understanding of seasickness and how likely it is to develop.
Studies were carried out in the field and in controlled conditions on a range of vessels to understand how they behave in different weather conditions. Empirical data was also gathered directly from the technicians themselves during transit over several months.
TNO used this seasickness model, coupled with vessel behaviour data from MARIN (validated with measurements by BMO), to provide more realistic logistics simulations to assist offshore wind planners. UK marine consultants SMC Ltd is building on this to commercialise decision-support software aimed at marine co-ordinators, which could enhance the industry’s approach to technician-led operations and maintenance activities.
ORE Catapult project manager Andrew Stormonth-Darling said, “This project has been ground-breaking. For the first time, we have used data, gathered in laboratories and out in the field, to truly understand the psychological and physiological impacts on offshore windfarm technicians during transit.
“The model and tool will improve the health, safety and wellbeing of technicians and the productivity of offshore windfarms, allowing windfarm marine co-ordinators to make more informed decisions on vessel design for particular sites and when to authorise transits.”
University of Hull senior lecturer in psychology and director, Centre for Human Factors, Dr Fiona Earle said, “Looking at the health, wellbeing, safety and productivity of technicians in crew transfer vessels is complex, requiring knowledge of human factors, ship motions and the offshore wind domain.
“By collaborating in this multi-discipline team, we have been able to increase our understanding considerably about what ‘sea-sickness’ is; how it manifests in technicians; the effects it has on wellbeing, fatigue and fitness to work; and the effect of vessel movements, as well as other factors such as the previous night’s sleep. As well as useful guidance for operators, and input to the decision-support tool, this study has given a great basis for further study into the causes and effects of technician sea-sickness.”
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