Long a provider of technology for the offshore oil and gas industry, MacGregor, part of Finland’s Cargotec Group, is exploiting existing offshore expertise in the fast-growing offshore wind industry, developing new equipment and targeting opportunities on installation vessels and service operation ships
Like most providers of equipment and services for the shipping sector, MacGregor and its parent company have had to adjust to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. After a period of turmoil, the markets in which Cargotec and MacGregor operate are stabilising and beginning to recover. The delivery capability of Cargotec and its supply chain continues to improve and productivity improvements are expected to support profitability in the future.
Despite the challenges faced by firms everywhere, Q2 2020 saw MacGregor’s financial performance improve, but it has been forecast that merchant ship contracting will decline close to historically low levels seen in 2016. At the same time, in the offshore oil and gas sector, the number of new vessels contracted is expected to remain at a low level, but in sharp contrast, demand for turbine installation vessels and other units for the offshore wind industry is expected to grow.
Here, MacGregor believes it has an advantage, taking proven technology it has developed and acquired in recent acquisitions such as that of TTS in 2019, applying it to the expanding market for foundation and turbine installation vessels and service operation vessels (SOVs).
At the same time, parent company Cargotec is committed to reducing the group’s environmental footprint – and that of its clients – which sits well with the ambitions of owners of offshore wind ships to operate ‘green ships for a green industry’ and reduce their own emissions and carbon footprint.
That MacGregor’s approach is working is demonstrated by a number of high profile orders awarded to the company, as MacGregor head of offshore solutions Leif Byström and director, sales and marketing innovations, offshore solutions Kristina Arutjunova told OWJ in an exclusive interview in early September.
Mr Byström explained, “We are taking our proven offshore technology and expertise in areas such as active heave compensation and applying them in offshore wind. Technology and expertise that we acquired in 2019 through TTS complements what we had already developed. In addition, we are constantly developing new technology, such as for the turnkey order we recently received from OHT for monopile handling equipment for its Alfa Lift foundation installation vessel.”
The Alfa Lift equipment deal – MacGregor’s largest single vessel contract secured to date – will see the offshore equipment provider deliver a complete monopile installation system for the innovative semi-submersible vessel in Q4 2021.
A number of companies can provide motion-compensated pile grippers for monopile foundations, but MacGregor’s scope of supply for the Alfa Lift vessel is more comprehensive than any other to date, including as it does the engineering, procurement and construction of a monopile lifting, skidding and transfer system, in addition to an upending tool and motion-compensated gripper frame that will hold foundations in place as they are driven into the seabed – all with the vessel in dynamic position (DP) mode rather than anchored or jacked up.
To do this, the motion-compensated gripper frame will be closely interfaced with the vessel’s dynamic positioning and control system in an integrated solution developed jointly by MacGregor and Kongsberg Maritime.
“In developing the equipment package for the vessel, our aim is to automate handling solutions and increase productivity, reducing the time it takes to install monopiles significantly,” Mr Byström explained. “Compared to a conventional jack-up installation vessel, the semi-submersible Alfa Lift vessel and the monopile handling equipment we will provide will be able to install foundations much more quickly and safely.”
Ms Arutjunova explained that MacGregor and Kongsberg had been working with OHT on the equipment for the Alfa Lift vessel for some time. “The equipment we are providing will be capable of handling large monopiles, up to 12 m diameter, more than 100 m in length and weighing around 3,000 tonnes,” she explained. She declined to describe the operating limits for the equipment but noted that it is designed to work in conditions more challenging even than those the Alfa Lift vessel will encounter on its first project, the Dogger Bank installation campaign.
Projects such as the monopile equipment for Alfa Lift form one part of the company’s growing offering in the offshore wind space, but there are others. Mr Byström expects MacGregor to provide solutions for a growing number of installation vessels and operations and maintenance vessels, such as SOVs, an example being equipment packages it was contracted to provide for four service operation vessels being built for Edda Wind.
Two of the equipment packages were awarded for Edda Wind’s commissioning service operation vessels (CSOVs), the first of which will enter into a firm charter for 11 years starting in Q1 2022. Each of the CSOVs will be equipped with a MacGregor ‘Horizon’ all-electric walk-to-work gangway which will include what is understood to be the largest integrated passenger lift ever fitted to a wind service vessel. In addition to enabling windfarm technicians to access the walk-to-work system, the elevator will also be connected to a Colibri 5-tonne 3D motion-compensated crane. Both will be controlled from a single operator station, enabling the operator to seamlessly change between controlling the crane and gangway.
The other equipment packages are for Edda Wind’s ‘second generation’ SOVs. The first of these vessels will enter into service on a 15-year charter in Q2 2022 and will also be equipped with a Horizon all-electric walk-to-work gangway and 3-tonne Colibri 3D motion-compensated crane. Although smaller than the CSOVs, the SOVs will be able to provide access to turbines and other structures to a height of up to 34 m above sea level, due to the novel design of the Horizon system, which is specifically tailored to Edda Wind’s requirements. The vessels will also benefit from having a centralised control station located close to the dynamic positioning operator’s position on the bridge.
“The Horizon walk-to-work gangway and Colibri 3D cranes are products brought into the MacGregor portfolio through the acquisition of TTS in 2019,” Mr Byström explained, noting that the gangways for the vessels will be electrically-driven, which will result in reduced emissions.
“Offshore wind is a green industry. Technology that can reduce the environmental impact of offshore wind vessels and their operation is something our customers are very keen to see, and something we are responding to,” Mr Byström said, noting that asset owners contracting for offshore wind ships increasingly ‘score’ vessels not just on price and capability, but on their environmental performance too.
Helping companies reduce their emissions and carbon footprint fits well with Cargotec’s ambitions in this area. In May 2020, the company announced its commitment to the United Nations Global Compact’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C, the aim of which is to pursue science-based measures to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
“Cargotec has an ambition to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% initially, and in the longer term to become carbon neutral in its own operations. That goes beyond the ambition level in the recent Science Based Targets initiative, so we are very comfortable with the idea of helping our customers to reduce emissions,” Mr Byström concluded.