IMCA technical director Mark Ford and Allseas engineering manager and workgroup chair Raymond Vink review the development of the ‘IMCA Code of Practice for Offshore Pipeline and Umbilical Installation Systems’
The new IMCA Code of Practice for Offshore Pipeline and Umbilical Installation Systems is a first-class standard, developed over 18 months thanks to the full co-operation of the five world-leading pipelaying contractors involved: Allseas; McDermott; Saipem; Subsea 7; and TechnipFMC. This was a unique experience for they are fierce competitors, but over the course of 22 meetings they shared experiences gained from installing many thousands of kilometres of pipelines and umbilicals in the offshore environment.
The code includes all equipment required to lay the product safely and effectively in an offshore marine environment and is applicable to all types of vessels that lay pipelines and umbilicals in that setting. It addresses the unnecessary and potentially harmful tendency to apply overloads as part of system-acceptance protocols on a project-by-project basis, rather than to utilise recent available and verifiable test records.
There was a major trigger for production of IMCA M 253. There is high dependency on DNV GL and its code, and concern was growing amongst contractors that it was slowly evolving to become increasingly conservative. This was an issue, for in the current market, indeed since 2015, conservatism adds cost that the industry can ill afford.
In 2018 IMCA contractor members expressed the view that there was a need to look at the challenge from a practical point of view, building on the experience that all the main contractors had developed over decades. The new code needed to take that, the current state of software and analytical power into consideration, rather than relying on a purely theoretical viewpoint.
The workgroup set out to create guidance that would define the minimum requirements for the installation of offshore pipeline and umbilical systems. Their plan, and the resulting M 253, was to focus on the laying spread, the vessel on which the laying spread is installed, and the interface between the vessel and the laying spread.
“Conservatism adds cost that the industry can ill afford”
Next, there was a need to get some more quantitative content, with more figures, in what is currently a qualitative document. Like all IMCA documents, it is available solely online, which means that revisions and additions can be made quickly and easily. It is important that the document evolves, bringing in feedback from its users.
“We have gone into great detail and are eager to add more when it is deemed relevant,” explained Mr Ford and Mr Vink. “We needed not only to find common ground between the five contractors on the workgroup but had, throughout the development of M 253, to consider what would be acceptable to clients, operators and certifying bodies.”
The impact on the industry will depend on the code’s acceptability. One big benefit is that the testing of equipment, as outlined in the document, is less onerous; and takes less time, less preparation, and all-in-all costs less.
It was a learning process, even for working group chair Mr Vink. “Allseas is very ‘S-lay’ oriented,” he said, adding, “I certainly enjoyed the experience of learning about the intricacies of other types of systems and how they work.”
Mr Vink continued: “At an organisational level it was imperative that all of us were fully aligned, getting heads all working in the same direction, and fully understanding the reasons behind this new guidance; and contractor buy-in on content was crucial. Holding 20 of our 22 meetings online was a challenge; we certainly missed the social interaction there would have been under normal circumstances.”
IMCA and the workgroup now requires industry feedback.