Access systems are being developed for offshore oil, gas and windfarm maintenance support as a substitute to helicopter and swing roping for crew transfer
As alternatives emerge to the traditional means of crew transfer, the sector is witnessing the development of some innovative new technologies. Ampelmann for instance, has made headway with its L-type access systems this year, having secured a contract for one project in west Africa. L-type was added to its portfolio as a smaller and lighter alternative to its already popular A- and E-type systems.
L-type offshore access systems can be used in calmer waters as an alternative to swing roping, as demonstrated by vessel owner LATC Marine, which is using one with a crew supply vessel for an ExxonMobil project offshore Nigeria.
An L-type gangway has also been deployed on Damen FCS-5009 fast crew supply vessel Dijama and another is being installed on Chilosco - another FCS-5009 - that will also be used by LATC Marine in Nigeria.
Ampelmann manager of sales and business development in Africa David Inman explained why L-type is an efficient and effective solution for operations along Africa’s west coast: “L-type is particularly suited to small, crew change vessels and allows a continuous flow of up to 50 personnel every five minutes.
“It can also be installed with a single lift, making its mobilisation as fast and efficient as possible.” This is in comparison to Ampelmann’s A- and E-type systems, which are larger and more robust for North Sea projects.
L-type access units are also being offered as part of a single-solution package for crew transfer. Damen is working with Ampelmann and Veem to offer a crew supply vessel with the L-type gangway. This would be fitted with Veem gyro stabilisers, which during tests, reduced vessel roll by 35-40%.
This package was demonstrated in June using a Damen FCS-5009 vessel fitted with an Ampelmann L-type gangway and two Veem VG 260SD gyro stabilisers. This vessel sailed from IJmuiden in the Netherlands to Eneco’s Princess Amalia offshore windfarm, where an L-type gangway connected to a wind turbine.
Ampelmann's A-type gangway links Kroonborg to the Brig BG platform
Elsewhere, in the rough waters of the North Sea, Ampelmann has been attracting new customers for its E-type gangway, according to Mr Inman: “We have strengthened our position this year after gaining four new contracts and two extended scopes of work.”
These projects will see six E-type gangway systems deployed for planned shutdown campaigns and ongoing fabric maintenance support by different major operators across the UK sector.
One of these contracts includes a three-year extension to support maintenance operations in the southern North Sea and will operate all year round. Another award is for a short shutdown campaign to allow production-enhancing work to take place.
An E-type system has also been installed on Olympic Orion, which is carrying out a two-month campaign for Spirit Energy to prepare the Audrey gas platform for decommissioning in the southern North Sea.
E-type can compensate high sea states up to 4.5 m wave height and transfer a full shift of up to 40 people in 15-20 minutes.
At the heart of an Ampelmann gangway system is an innovative hexapod technology. Inspired by aerospace technology, with the “principle of a flight simulator turned upside down,” it is capable of measuring and compensating all six degrees of freedom of a moving vessel, said Mr Inman.
The hexapod ensures that wave motion is accounted for, resulting in a steady platform and gangway. Mr Inman said this smart motion compensation solution has a reliability record with a technical uptime of 99.6%: “This is the result of regular preventative maintenance checks performed by personnel offshore and due to the redundancy of all critical system components.”
To support these projects, Ampelmann relocated its base in Aberdeen to larger premises on Waterloo Quay. Mr Inman expects further growth will come, based on its track record and future projects. “Fleet expansion and continuous innovation will enable us to deliver cost-effective, sustainable and safe solutions to the oil and gas market,” he said.
Another leader in compensated walk-to-work systems, Uptime International, has developed an autonomous gangway for offshore projects. Uptime already supplies walkways with automatic operations and has now developed an autonomous 30 m gangway that employs new technical elements.
Uptime access systems provide a bridge between accommodation vessels and oil production platforms
“[It] has new features, such as autolanding and crane function,” said Uptime sales and business development director Bjørnar Huse, adding, “This gangway will be a game changer, increasing workability and safety at a lower cost.”
Uptime has won a contract to provide one of these access solutions for a new windfarm service operation vessel (SOV) under construction for Bernhard Schulte Offshore. This is being built by Ulstein Verft in Norway to an Ulstein SX 195 SOV design and will have a 30 m access walkway.
This vessel is scheduled to enter service in 2020 and will support maintenance work of GE Renewable Energy at the German windfarm Merkur Offshore.
For this vessel, Uptime will supply a newly designed active motion-compensated gangway and an adjustable pedestal integration, which will be mounted towards the elevator tower.
Interaction between the gangway and vessel will enable personnel and cargo transfer through the gangway. In addition, it could also be used as a crane, according to Uptime sales and marketing manager Svein Ove Haugen.
“Our autonomous gangway can be controlled remotely from the wheelhouse, thus reducing the human factor,” he said. “Our autolanding function will confirm the correct landing point and then the gangway will land by itself.”
Uptime has a track record of 99.9% proven operating reliability, said Mr Haugen. “Our gangways can be continuously open for short or long term and can be connected for weeks or even months. We are the only gangway provider with TRL7 approval from Equinor.”
To date, Uptime has delivered or been contracted to provide 130 gangways. These have included deliveries to owners such as Østensjø Rederi and Poseidon Offshore for offshore wind and oil and gas projects.
Integration with dynamic positioning
Kongsberg Maritime can integrate its K-Walk vessel gangway solution with information management and dynamic positioning (DP) systems on OSVs. It is supplying a K-Walk as an integrated solution for Olympic Shipping’s multipurpose offshore vessel, Olympic Orion.
K-Walk is a motion-compensated gangway for transferring personnel and equipment. It is activated prior to entering a wind turbine’s safety zone, reducing vessel speed and launching the K-Walk hook-up process during approach. It has integrated DP that means it can be moved into position while the vessel is still moving, positioning it safely as the vessel arrives on station.
Elsewhere, Van Aalst Group has supplied its first SafeWay gangway to offshore construction vessel Olympic Intervention IV. This is a 95 m, DP2 vessel for offshore windfarm construction and support. Safeway will operate in a significant wave height of up to 3.5 m.
Finally, Osbit has delivered a height-adjustable boat landing system for use with jack-up vessels to Gulf Marine Services. This tower was installed on self-elevating support vessel GMS Endeavour, which has been deployed on the Hornsea Project One windfarm. Osbit’s system has five height settings, enabling it to be accessed in line with the position of the jack-up across the full tidal range.