Advances in automation and cross-sector knowledge-sharing are making walk-to-work personnel transfers safer
“The main focus now is not making gangways bigger, we are now focusing on adding more intelligence to the system by removing a lot of the dependence on a skilled operator to operate and land a gangway correctly,” said Uptime International’s sales and business development director Bjørnar Huse at the 2019 Offshore Wind Journal Conference in London on 5 February.
He noted a lot of issues with gangways come from operation in heavy weather, or in cases of drift-off or of dynamic positioning systems being unable to hold position, and that computer systems are better able to handle and resolve these issues than humans.
“Mixing people into anything that is automated can cause inconsistencies in the system,” said Mr Huse, observing that while you can make a gangway land automatically, the human factor remains unpredictable and can be prone to accidents and trips when traversing a gangway. “We have to make the systems as safe as possible [to account for] for personnel behaving erratically.”
“We can make the gangway talk to the DP system and we can make the gangway land automatically, but we can’t get the crew across from the boat – they have to do that themselves.”
Uptime’s director of sales and marketing Svein Ove Haugen told OSJ how the company focused on improving existing systems, rather than selling new products to the oil and gas sector during the downturn: “In these years our goal was not delivering equipment but helping customers to have safe access.”
“I’m really happy to see that oil and gas is moving again, and it’s also good to see [it] adapting technology from wind and renewables, and the other way around,” said Mr Haugen, adding: “Evolution is moving faster because they are pushing each other.”
"Operators of smaller craft such as CTVs are finding smaller gangways an effective alternative to traditional transfer methods"
Though 2019 marks Uptime’s 40th year providing gangways for the offshore oil and gas sector, it has been active in the offshore wind sector since 2011 and has observed that operators in both sectors share many requirements, including a reliance on walk-to-work systems for access where other methods are not available or suitable, Mr Haugen noted. Therefore, vessels capable of operating in both sectors are in high demand. He cited the example of Bibby Wavemaster, winner of the Offshore Renewables Award at the 2018 Annual Offshore Support Journal Awards: “It was built for renewables but after three months working [in that sector] it was chartered by Total as they recognised they needed the same features.”
Uptime was nominated for the Offshore Renewables Award at the Annual Offshore Support Journal Awards in London in 2019, for its development of a 30m gangway, to be installed on a new Bernhard Schulte Offshore vessel, with features including autonomous landing, autonomous trolley transfer and 4-tonne crane function.
Operators of smaller craft such as crew transfer vessels (CTV) are finding smaller gangways an effective alternative to traditional transfer methods, Mr Haugen says. He noted Uptime has recently received five contracts for its smaller 12 m gangways, with four going to US-based Candy Offshore and the fifth going to Singapore-based Penguin International, all of which will be installed on CTVs operating in the oil and gas sector. “We can see that this market is looking to increase operability, to go away from bump-and-jump or swing-rope landings,” Mr Haugen added.
Uptime is co-operating with another Norwegian company, Marine Roll and Pitch Control, to incorporate stabilisation systems into gangways in order to provide access at significant wave heights up to 5 m, Mr Huse said. “With the stabilisation system we gain easily half a meter to a meter by spending €1M (US$1.1M),” he says, adding that Uptime is using computer model-based simulations to test this work.