ST Engineering combines its experience of offshore vessels with innovative propulsion and new hullforms to address the fast-growing global offshore wind market
ST Engineering recently entered the offshore wind vessel market with designs for a service operation vessel and an innovative crew transfer vessel (CTV), and as ST Engineering senior vice president business development and marketing Michael Bell tells OWJ, the company firmly believes that vessels that work in the sector need to be ‘green ships.’
“The objective of decarbonisation and greater use of green energy ripples through the way offshore windfarms are built and serviced. This means an ever-increasing drive to build vessels that are green and sustainable too,” says Mr Bell. “We are continuously evaluating green and sustainable options like liquefied natural gas (LNG), fuel cells and pure electric to provide greener, safer and more cost-effective solutions for our customers.
“Some of these technologies are still at an early stage and turning early stage developments into commercially feasible solutions can be challenging. But with mounting regulatory pressure and a global desire towards sustainability, they are exciting options. ST Engineering has taken these cues and focused on designing vessels that use alternative fuel and incorporate technologies that can enhance the sustainability of operations.
“Our 76-m LNG-fuelled high-speed service operation vessel is designed specifically to provide technician transit, accommodation and transfer services while having much lower NOx emissions than a conventional vessel.
“The 20-m, suspension-enabled crew transfer vessel we recently unveiled was designed specifically to transit and transfer technicians in a broader weather window than conventional vessels but uses significantly less fuel to do so by nature of its size.”
Mr Bell tells OWJ that the company’s renewables vessel portfolio is focused on transit, transfer and accommodation services. “The demands of these vessels are well-aligned to our historical build experience and where we can provide the maximum value to our customers,” he explains.
“We have diverse experience in dynamic positioning from diving support vessels, hotel-like accommodation and services from our sleeper ropax vessels, general offshore newbuilds and an extensive range of high-speed paramilitary fast boats. Collectively, these experiences have honed our offshore renewables vessels perfectly. Looking forward, we are primarily focused on further reducing the carbon footprint of our vessels by means of hybridisation, electric and fuel cell integration.”
In the longer term the company also sees potential for using unmanned surface vessels (USVs) in the offshore wind space. It recently completed initial sea trials of a fully autonomous tug, which incorporates features such as autonomous waypoint navigation with collision detection and collision avoidance, remote centralised control and health monitoring of onboard systems.
“We see autonomous technology as the way to go for safer, faster and more cost-effective operations, and are open to implementing autonomous technology in other vessel types, including for offshore applications,” Mr Bell explains. “One key area we are working to leverage these technologies is lean manning and reducing the overall workload and pressure on crews.”
Asked what other skillsets ST Engineering believes will be important in the offshore wind space, Mr Bell says, “Along with the focus to decarbonise vessel operations, there is always the need to make services safer, more cost-effective and more flexible.
“Systems such as walk-to-work gangways, active fender and suspension systems, monitoring these operations and customers’ requirement for comfortable accommodation and onboard services are becoming increasingly important. These are becoming the new norm, driven by renewables. With Covid-19 considerations like passenger and crew health and social distancing, we are also looking into developing the capability of unmanned solutions to drive lean manning of vessels, and an overall reduction in crew on board.”
“Looking ahead, we want to develop more new concepts for the renewables segment,” Mr Bell concludes. “Ultimately, our goal is to design a vessel that delivers the best possible return on investment.”