2017 Nov 14

Offshore architects diversify and look to new roles for existing designs

Naval architects who used to rely on the offshore market for much of their work continue to diversify and look beyond domestic markets – they are also proposing conversions for vessels they designed and built only a few years ago.

Among the well known designers of offshore vessels looking beyond their usual geographic horizon is OSD-IMT in Europe, which has entered into an agreement with Gibbs & Cox in the US to offer vessel designs to commercial customers in US market.

OSD-IMT has a proven portfolio of a wide range of designs including vessels for the offshore, renewable energy, passenger transport, fishing, oceanographic research and general cargo markets. More than 160 OSD-IMT-designed vessels are in service worldwide.

Under the partnership, Gibbs & Cox and OSD-IMT will offer an expansive range of designs that are efficient to operate, maintain and construct.

Gibbs & Cox president and chief executive Chris Deegan said “We are delighted to enter into this synergistic partnership. OSD-IMT is a recognised leader in commercial vessel design outside the US with a diversified portfolio of vessels that have been constructed worldwide.

“Gibbs & Cox has had over nine decades of designing vessels in the US, with particular experience in detail and production design of vessels constructed at US shipyards. The commercial market demands proven vessel designs that are efficient to build, operate and maintain.

“Shipyards demand designs that are straightforward to construct based on a design package optimised to their facilities. Together with OSD-IMT, we can satisfy these requests to US customers on a broader range of vessel types than before.”

OSD-IMT’s managing director Neil Patterson said the company was excited about the trans-Atlantic partnership and looked forward to working with Gibbs & Cox to deliver what he described as “competitive and producible designs” to the US market.

Mr Patterson said “Gibbs & Cox’s reputation and knowledge of the US market complements our own capabilities and experience demonstrated in markets outside the US. As the largest independent US naval architectural firm, Gibbs & Cox offers the resource depth and processes to competitively execute any size project on schedule.”

Diversification continues to underscore the strategy adopted by Vard, which used to build large numbers of offshore support vessels at its yards in Norway. In a statement about its Q3 results, Vard said it plans to continue to diversify its suite of product offerings and identify new opportunities in areas such as the expedition cruise vessel market and the fisheries and aquaculture sector, through focus on design and innovation. Vard is not without recent offshore orders, however, having been awarded a contract for the design of a cablelay vessel for Kokusai Cable Ship Co Ltd in Japan. The Vard 9 01 design is tailor-made for efficient installation and repair of subsea telecom cables and will also be able to work in the expanding power cable installation market by incorporating a high-capacity below-deck cable carousel.

“Whilst the offshore market remains challenging, there are signs of a long-term recovery in the broader oil and gas industry,” Vard said. “However, there are still inherent risks in the group’s current offshore project portfolio, which the management works to mitigate.

“Looking ahead, while the workload at the shipyards remains volatile and varies by geography, the arrival of cruise vessel hulls and other projects from Romania will result in an improvement in yard utilisation in Norway.”

Vard’s chief executive officer and executive director said “As our diversification strategies are beginning to bear fruit, Vard continues to strengthen its business operations through the efficient management of workload across the different shipyards and leverages on its track record in design and innovation.

“Apart from looking at new, sustainable opportunities to expand our project portfolio in other vessel segments, we are continuously exploring ways to diversify our service offering and tap into other business leads in the offshore and marine industries such as repair and maintenance.”

The group’s shipyards in Norway are still suffering from low levels of utilisation whilst they prepare for the arrival of hulls currently under construction in Romania. However, newbuilding activity is being supplemented by conversion, repair and maintenance work on a broad range of vessels, including coast guard, fisheries and some offshore vessels.

Another well known Norwegian designer and builder, Ulstein Group, has developed what it describes as new-life solutions for the medium-sized PX121 platform supply vessels (PSVs) it designed. A number of offshore vessel owners ordered ships based on the design.

The new-life concept capitalises on what Ulstein called the “inherent strength of the vessel’s solid platform”. One option is the conversion of the PX121 into a service operation vessel (SOV) for the offshore wind industry; another is conversion into a flexible inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) vessel for the subsea market.

“This is the time to consider repositioning PSVs to a new life in a new market segment with an attractive cost base and short conversion time. The market in renewables is bustling, and there is a constant need for inspection, maintenance and repair of subsea installations, both in offshore wind and offshore oil and gas,” the company told OSJ. “A well thought through conversion can mean a new lease of life.”

The company says a PX121 could be converted into an SOV by upgrading the accommodation to 90 and installing a walk-to-work gangway with adjustable pedestal and integrated elevator, a workboat and lifeboats. The upgrade would include storage capacity for containers and for workshops. The company said it has also done a lot of work on how to ensure that a converted PX121 re-roled as an SOV would have efficient workflow and onboard logistics, which are key to the operation of SOVs.

A PX121 could be transformed into an IMR vessel by installing extra accommodation, for a total of 60, and optional lifeboats. With a 60-tonne crane and up to 700 m2 work deck, the vessel could take on IMR assignments worldwide, Ulstein suggested.

One of the latest designs from Marin Teknikk is Maersk Supply Service’s new Stingray-class subsea support vessels.  

This particular firm of naval architects has long designed subsea and light construction vessels for the offshore industry, but it has had to diversify into related fields, an outstanding example being Nujoma, said to be the world’s largest and most advanced diamond exploration and sampling vessel, which recently started exploring for diamond deposits in Namibian waters.

Constructed by Kleven shipyard in Ulsteinvik, Norway, to the MT 6022 design from Marin Teknikk and fitted with its subsea sampling system, De Beers’ new mining vessel enables Debmarine Namibia, a 50/50 joint venture between the Government of the Republic of Namibia and De Beers Group, to explore diamond deposits and secure diamond supply in the country.

The highly specialised and technologically advanced diamond exploration and sampling vessel is the sixth ship in the Debmarine Namibia fleet. (It is named after Namibia’s founding president Dr Sam Nujoma.)

Being based on Marin Teknikk’s MT 6022 design, the basic design of the vessel is already well proven in the offshore construction vessel segment, but the newbuild for De Beers will include a wide range of tailor-made equipment and features, highlighting the Norwegian designer’s ability to tailor vessels to meet the specific requirements of its customers.

Contracts to design new offshore vessels have not completely dried up but are very few and far between. Among those that have been developed is a new cablelay vessel that will be built at Uljanik shipyard in Croatia to a design from Skipsteknisk in Norway.

The vessel is designed for installation of HVDC and HVAC cable systems, even in severe weather conditions. It will be capable of installing Nexans’ complete submarine product range and will have a 10,000-tonne capacity turntable. The Skipsteknisk-designed unit will have a high level of redundancy and dynamic positioning class 3 and is due to be delivered by Q3 2020.

October 2017 saw Royal IHC in the Netherlands confirmed as the designer of Subsea 7’s new reel-lay vessel. The innovative vessel will be capable of installing complex rigid flowlines including pipe-in-pipe systems.

The designer/shipbuilder said that, in close co-operation with Subsea 7, IHC has incorporated several innovative features to make this “the most technologically advanced vessel to date”. Delivery of the vessel is planned for early 2020.

Royal IHC chief executive Dave Vander Heyde said “Based on the ratio between top pipe tension and payload to displacement, this will be one of the most cost-effective vessels to enter the market.”

The vessel’s compact dimensions are facilitated by the positioning of its three enginerooms and main reel, efficient use of the superstructure and low-profile pipelay ramp. The smart use of space opens a large aft working deck, while the optimised mass distribution minimises the ballast water requirement.

With model tank testing already having been performed, Subsea 7 can be confident that it will receive a vessel from IHC that excels in performance, both in transit and in DP conditions, and provides maximum comfort for the crew.

The design of the reel-lay system focuses on operational efficiency and flexibility, alongside crew safety. The twin tensioner pipelay ramp tilts to allow pipeline installation from shallow waters to depths of up to 3,000 m.

The large multilevel workstation optimises the efficiency of operations in and around the firing line, while a fixed auxiliary reel, recessed into the main deck, gives payload flexibility.

Salt Ship Design in Norway is an established designer of a range of offshore vessels, but of late has diversified into designing live fish carriers and large pelagic trawlers. Soon to be delivered is one of the latest offshore designs from the company, an SOV for Louis Dreyfus Armateurs (LDA).

Being built by Cemre Shipyard in Turkey, LDA’s new vessel is the subject of a long-term contract with Dong Energy. It will operate on four offshore windfarms off the German coast – Borkum Riffgrund 1 and 2 and Gode Wind 1 and 2 – providing a base for windfarm technicians. Due to be delivered by the Turkish yard in Q4 2018, the 83.0 m vessel has a beam of 19.4 m and will be equipped with a dynamic motion compensated gangway with what Salt Ship Design describes as “a unique onboard logistic solution”.

LDA worked closely with Salt Ship Design to develop a vessel tailored for the needs of the offshore wind industry. “This has resulted in a very purpose-driven SOV,” said the Norwegian naval architect. A spokesperson for Salt Ship Design said that the design departs from convention for offshore support vessels by focusing on enhanced operability and efficient logistics of the type required in the offshore wind industry. “The contract is an important milestone for us because the renewables industry is becoming an increasingly important market,” Salt Ship Design said.

As recently highlighted by OSJ, another well known designer/builder, Damen, is also looking at new markets and believes it has identified a niche for long-range crew transfer vessels that can compete with helicopters. The result is a super-slender hullform with motion compensation system and a specially designed offshore access system.

Damen’s FCS 7011, is intended to provide a broad range of marine access solutions for sea states of up to 3.0 Hs. It is able to land personnel on platforms and floating production units up to a landing height of 20 m whilst providing a fast and comfortable crew change solution. The company said detailed cost analysis has shown that among other potential applications the FCS 7011 is ideal for transfers in the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Cameroon and other countries offshore West Africa, along with emerging markets such as Guyana, where ExxonMobil needs to put together a logistics solution for its Liza developments.


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