Maintaining software remotely offers time and cost savings for subsea vessel operators
A main contractor for designing, building and installing full deck lay solutions, UK-based MAATS Tech has been providing remote support services to its customers for a number of years. With travel restrictions and social distance guidelines now the ‘new normal’, this remote support service has become all the more relevant to the successful operation and maintenance of MAATS equipment.
MAATS has supplied over 50 carousel systems to more than 30 vessels, working with clients such as Subsea 7, TechnipFMC, NKT, Nexans, Aker Solutions, McDermott and SBM. MAATS, for example, supplied two 5,000-t below deck carousels for the multi-purpose DEME Living Stone and one 2,000-t carousel with control equipment, a telescopic spooling wheel and two cable lay wheels for the subsea cable lay installation vessel KDDI Cable Infinity.
With the recent request from a major client in Brazil for the upgrade and modification of software on its mission equipment, MAATS Service had to ‘think outside the box.’ Normally, such a service call would require working alongside a third-party supplier. The customary process MAATS follows for providing this kind of support request would require an engineer traveling to the site, completing all the necessary documentation and safety briefings, confirming the changes to be carried out and identifying any other potential issues. Once those tasks are completed, the software modifications and test protocol are carried out to ensure the equipment works flawlessly before departing the vessel. This process is preferred due to the complex nature of software changes.
However, under current travel restrictions and social distancing protocols, MAATS had to adapt to a revised way of providing the same level of expert support without physically attending the vessel. This required a change in approach and attitude from both MAATS and the client.
One of the major concerns with remote access is the possibility of poor connectivity, as internet systems on board offshore vessels can be unreliable. MAATS considered this issue when developing a new, project-specific software change procedure. By implementing risk assessments and creating a stringent test procedure, this technique ensures that the client can remotely test for any potential issues that may have appeared as a result of the update. MAATS completed the remote support operation with very little time between the software modification and completion of the test procedure.
“The technique ensures the client can remotely test for any issues that may have appeared as a result of the update”
This project illustrates a major and necessary shift in day-to-day procedure and the technology required to continue to provide services essential to the function of vessels and related equipment. This type of service will likely become more commonplace in the post-Covid-19 world.
MAATS says it was able to carry out the software modification without being present, saving the client time, money and resources.
Recognising the need to be adaptive and cost-sensitive, MAATS service manager Chris Hickling says: "With the ever-evolving requirements of the equipment within the industry and the price that accompanies it, not only does remote access solve today’s issue of travel restrictions, but also allows future upgrades to be efficient and cost effective, too.”
As a result, MAATS has included these policies and risk assessments into the daily working procedures and intends to offer remote support as the ‘new normal’ where possible.
MAATS plans to offer in-house training to vessel technicians to introduce remote support that will allow them to be the ‘eyes and ears’ on the ship.