A background in computing and IT underpin the lifting solutions a Norwegian company has developed for service operation vessels
A Norwegian company that started life as an IT firm is applying expertise in software, sensors and mechatronic engineering – a multidisciplinary branch of engineering that focuses on engineering electrical and mechanical systems, including robotics, electronics, computing, systems, control, and product engineering – to develop next-generation cranes and motion-compensated gangways for service operation vessels (SOVs).
The company, Kristiansand-based Red Rock, believes its background in this kind of technology has given it an edge in the development of motion-compensated cranes that lift loads from the deck of a SOV to the platforms on wind turbines. It has already delivered a 3D motion-compensated crane for Bernhard Schulte’s new SOV, Windea Jules Verne, which is set to start work shortly on the Merkur offshore windfarm in Germany, servicing the GE turbines selected for the project.
As Red Rock’s chief commercial officer Thomas Holte explains, the Bernhard Schulte vessel has a 3D motion-compensated crane with a lifting capacity of 3 tonnes at 25 m, but the company is already working on a series of much more capable cranes that can meet the needs of larger wind turbines.
“We started delivering heave-compensated cranes into the offshore industry some time ago,” Mr Holte explains. “But the requirements of SOVs are more demanding. Also, compared with some offshore oil and gas vessels, they are not big ships, so cranes installed on them need to be compact too.
“It’s one thing to compensate for vessel heave, a lot of companies can do that, but we saw that there was also a requirement to compensate for roll and pitch, and that SOVs are a growing market where that kind of combined motion compensation was going to be increasingly in demand.
“Compensating for heave, roll and pitch needs special tools and expertise. There a number of ways you can do it. One well-known manufacturer does so by compensating the movement of the entire pedestal on which a crane is fitted, but that requires a lot of energy and is an expensive way to do it.
“We thought we could make the process more efficient and create a less expensive system by compensating for movement closer to the load, putting the compensation in the tip of the crane boom. With our background in software and IT, and in sensors and mechatronics, we felt sure we could do a better job,” Mr Holte tells OWJ.
“We sourced our own sensors and put together our own sensor package combined with specialised controls and a hydraulic system. It’s a high-tech solution but a simple one too, that ensures reliability.”
Mr Holte notes that, such is the fast pace of development in the offshore wind industry, since being awarded the contract to supply the crane for Windea Jules Verne approximately 18 months ago, the requirement for 3D motion-compensated cranes for SOVs has evolved and owners are already looking for cranes capable of handling larger components and of lifting them to greater heights.
“Wind turbines are getting larger and components are getting heavier. The height to which components need to be lifted is growing. With this in mind, we will soon have a series of 3D compensated cranes capable of lifting much heavier loads onto the platform on a transition piece on a wind turbine,” he says. This includes a crane capable of lifting up to 10 tonnes at 30 m outreach.
“Despite the downturn in related markets such as offshore oil and gas, and the problems the coronavirus pandemic is causing, offshore wind is still a very active market, and we are still getting and responding to a lot of enquiries,” Mr Holte concludes.
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