New vessels are incorporating advanced safety, cargo capacity and digitalisation to improve the logistics supply chain
Amid signs of a slow recovery in the offshore oil and gas sector and continuing growth in renewables, charterers are demanding crew boats and crew transfer vessels with designs that offer greater safety, efficiency and cost control.
“We are now seeing slow growth in the crewboat market, with a drive from oil majors to optimise costs over the whole operation, which includes using newly designed platforms and technologies,” says a spokesman for Australian naval architect and marine engineer Incat Crowther.
Higher levels of passenger comfort, faster transit speeds, more cargo capacity and more efficient transfers to offshore platforms are among the key requests for logistics supply chain management. “Some of these vessels have modest cargo requirements, while others are designed specifically for both high cargo deadweight and crew change operations,” says Incat Crowther.
One such vessel is the Libby L McCall, one in a series of US-based Seacor Marine’s “Comfort Class” fast supply vessels (FSVs) designed by Incat Crowther. With the capacity to carry 300 tonnes of cargo on deck, Libby L McCall has dynamic positioning class 2 capability for enhanced offshore station keeping, an active ride control system for optimal passenger and crew comfort and specially designed gangways on each side of the vessel to provide safe boarding operations. Creature comforts such as “privacy pods” with internet connectivity and reclining seats, similar to first-class airline accommodation, keep passengers comfortable on long transits for deepwater oil and gas operations.
"Creature comforts, such as “privacy pods” with internet connectivity and reclining seats, similar to first-class airline accommodation, keep passengers comfortable"
Seacor Marine chief executive John Gellert calls the Comfort Class FSVs “a cost-effective alternative to helicopters,” adding they also have the “flexibility to move vital cargo.”
Austal global sales manager, offshore Chris Pemberton agrees that crewboats can be cost-effective alternatives to helicopters and says that in some cases, international oil companies (IOCs) have initiated the change from helicopters to marine alternatives – sometimes mandating this – when the safety standards of local helicopter services are called into question. Adds Mr Pemberton: “The case for marine alternatives can always be made in terms of economics: it is always cheaper per seat.” He adds that crewboats and crew transfer vessels have other advantages over helicopters.
“Passengers can travel with a good amount of luggage, which is important if the crew change is for a two-week period. Also, larger crew transfer vessels (CTVs) can perform other functions, such as delivering ‘hot-shot’ cargo, search and rescue and oil spill response,” he says.
As Mr Pemberton points out, there is also an increased emphasis on safety in the offshore wind sector. For CTVs, offshore wind operators and suppliers that send technicians out to service and maintain the turbines are demanding higher levels of safety and efficiency, such as ‘step-less’ transfers.
Safety and efficiency are also playing into the increased digitalisation of crewboats and CTVs. Largely through advances in engine efficiency, crewboats are becoming more efficient in terms of fuel consumption – which is becoming increasingly important to IOCs. “Engine fuel monitoring systems (EFMS) are becoming more common and most IOCs are now making them mandatory,” says Mr Pemberton.
Shipbuilder Austal saw this as an opportunity to incorporate a value-added, “smart” digital product into its vessels. It says that the biggest cost items in monitoring fuel are the fuel flow meters required on each engine.” To address this, Austal has developed a proprietary control and monitoring system called Marinelink-Smart that can integrate the output from the flow meters on the engines and save the owner the cost of implementing a full third-party EFMS.
The system allows the monitoring and remote control of major systems on board, such as engines, propulsion equipment and electrical power, providing real-time data for improved decision making.