Well-established in the offshore oil and gas and offshore wind industries, motion-compensated gangways could soon be complemented by lifting platforms for personnel and cargo
Eagle Access, a Dutch company formed by two individuals with lengthy experience in the marine and offshore sectors and in offshore access systems, has begun building a prototype of a new concept that lifts personnel and equipment into place from the deck of a vessel. Sea trials are due to get under way in September 2019.
The company was established by Willem Prins and Marco Klitsie in 2016. Both men have significant experience developing and constructing systems and were involved in developing a number of first-generation access systems.
Analysing the offshore access market, the founders of Eagle Access found existing gangways “only partly meet the demands of clients” and in many cases “failed to reduce operating costs or enhance workability, particularly as regards cargo.”
Mr Prins and Mr Klitsie decided to go back to basics and start from scratch with a new approach that is not a gangway. They wanted to reduce the cost of transfers and avoid downtime due to inclement weather. They believe the Eagle Access system provides a solution that can quickly switch between cargo and personnel transfer, transferring up to four people or 1-tonne loads at a time.
Mr Prins and Mr Klitsie wanted to ensure the system had as high a level of operability as possible and is only limited by the dynamic positioning capability of the vessel on which it is installed. The requirements of the system include a dynamic positioning class 2 vessel, 4-m2 deck space, 75 kW of electrical power and a crane driver.
They also wanted to ensure it was easy to operate with significant reach while being smaller and lighter than existing systems. Taken together, they felt these features would reduce the time it takes to undertake a transfer and enable as many transfers as possible in a day. They felt it was also important the system should be able to transfer personnel and equipment to unprepared platforms.
Unlike most offshore access systems, the Eagle Access system is 100% electrically powered, making hydraulic power packs and generators unnecessary. Construction costs are lower as a result, as are operating costs, which the company said are “significantly reduced.”
Another advantage of the Eagle Access system is it has a small footprint on the deck of the vessel, making it possible to use smaller vessels such as platform supply vessels, they said. Other advantages are the range of the system – from sea level to a height of 25 m – and its low weight (17 tonnes).
The resulting system has a closed cabin for windfarm technicians and provides the same reach to either side of the vessel. Cameras at the tip of the arm closely monitor the approach and landing from different angles. All vessel motions are fully motion-compensated. Once landed on the turbine or platform the crew step out of the cabin and the system can take off. The patented, uncomplicated design of the system only requires three drives. The system is also DNV GL-compliant.
With a similar concept of operation, Lift2Work’s OPTS offshore access system has approval to the DNV GL-ST-0378 standard. The company said it now plans to obtain ST-358 Certification of offshore gangways for personnel transfer survey. Like the Eagle Access system, the OPTS is not a gangway but is a fully motion-compensated lifting platform. It was designed to provide access to offshore oil and gas platforms, offshore wind structures, other vessels and structures. It can move freely through 360° and has a reach of 24 m horizontally and more than 20 m vertically above deck level. It can also drop to 6 m below the level of the deck, for example, for rescue purposes.
Among the latest systems delivered by UK-based OSBIT is a gangway for GeoSea, delivered earlier in 2018. With jack-up vessels being moored further away from fixed structures, GeoSea needed a system that could safely bridge greater distances, which can vary in length between vessel and landing location. OSBIT designed and built a telescoping gangway that can be installed on any jack-up vessel. The system is certified to DNV GL ST0358 and has a telescoping length of 20-32 m. It has loading capacity for three people and minimum/maximum luffing angles of -30° to +30°. It has a rotation angle of 330° for flexible positioning. Stair treads facilitate safe access when the gangway is inclined.
September 2018 saw Safeway in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, introduced its third motion-compensated walkway, the Safeway Albatross. Safeway already has two active motion-compensated walk-to-work systems on the market, Safeway Seagull and the recently added Safeway Osprey. The main aim of the new Albatross design is to offer increased flexibility to shipowners and operators.
The most important feature of the Safeway Albatross is that a lift is integrated into the mast to transport goods, pallets and people. As an option, the lift can be extended to the below-deck storage level. The boom of the Safeway Albatross can be rotated through 360°, allowing the mast to be mounted centrally on the deck of a vessel. It also means the 30-m gangway can be oriented towards the stern, port or starboard, to safely transfer workers and their equipment. Safeway also announced it can supply an optional variant with a boom length of up to 32 m. This gangway can be mounted on vessels with a breadth of 24 m.
Among the latest contracts awarded to Ampelmann are deals for five systems for use in the offshore wind sector in the North Sea. The projects will see two A-type and three E-type systems installed on vessels operating in the North Sea. Among the new contracts is a five-month commissioning campaign with vessel owner Eidesvik. An Ampelmann E-type system was installed on Viking Neptun to enable support work at the Merkur offshore windfarm in the German North Sea. The E-type provides safe offshore access in rough sea waters and can compensate wave motions up to 4.5 m Hs.
Another well-known player in the market, the Netherlands-based SMST, is due to deliver an access and cargo tower and a 3D motion-compensated crane for Bibby Marine Services’ newbuild service operation vessel (SOV) in Q2 2019. The SMST equipment will be used to safely transfer maintenance personnel and cargo from the Damen-built SOV to offshore wind turbines. The vessel, a sister ship to Bibby WaveMaster 1, is due to work for EnBW and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy on the Hohe See and Albatros offshore windfarms. It has been chartered for 10 years.
The package of equipment ordered for the vessel includes a 3D crane, elevator and motion-compensated gangway. The access and cargo tower will enable safe and stepless transfer, up to a significant wave height of 3.5 m. The landing height of the access and cargo tower can be adjusted to provide access to platforms up to 26 m above sea level.
Bernhard Schulte’s new SOV will have a motion-compensated gangway and adjustable pedestal from Uptime in Norway. The Norwegian company has entered into a contract with Ulstein Verft for delivery of an Uptime 30-m offshore access solution. Ulstein Verft will integrate the gangway into a service operation vessel developed by Ulstein Design & Solutions. The vessel is due to be delivered in 2020. The contract consists of an active motion-compensated gangway and an adjustable pedestal which will be mounted adjacent to an elevator tower in the Ulstein SX 195 SOV. The Bernhard Schulte vessel will support maintenance work by GE Renewable Energy on the Merkur offshore windfarm.