Taking fast crew vessels to a next level

Published in category: Offshore Oil & Gas

2017 sees Damen taking its already extensive range of Fast Crew Supply (FCS) vessels to a whole new level. This year’s introduction of the FCS 7011 brings a new longdistance class capable of servicing large platforms over 100 nautical miles from port. Its size and capacity will enable it to exchange large volumes of personnel quickly, efficiently and in a very broad weather window.

70-metres of smooth aluminium with an ultra-fine entry tipped by Damen’s signature Axe-Bow, there is no mistaking the fact that it is designed to cut through the waves at high speed. However, there is much more to the 7011 than simply pace. The design is the result of an extensive R&D programme that involved a range of external research institutions as well as extensive customer input. The 7011 concept has in fact been developed in response to feedback from a number of offshore oil and gas companies. This time their focus was on servicing the big installations operating for the most part out beyond the continental shelves, mostly FPSOs and semi-submersible production platforms. Concentrations of these are to be found in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the west coast of Africa and the coasts of Brazil and Australia. The companies’ shared objective is to encourage the offshore market to develop solutions that will help them further reduce their logistical costs and increase their efficiencies in an era of consistently low oil prices. They are also seeking to increase margins of safety over the current alternatives.

Back to first principles

The FCS 7011 concept shows a slender vessel designed to carry up to 150 personnel at speeds of up to 40 knots in exceptional comfort. The interior layout and furnishings can be configured to the needs of each client. Similar to a plane, different classes from first with large, fully-reclining seats, to a rather more basic economy can be configured, or a simpler, one-size-fits-all approach using any seating option the customer chooses. Whatever the format, large windows will give plenty of natural light and there will be space to move around. However, the 7011 is a far more complex vessel than it appears at first sight, and is the product of an extensive R&D programme that looked at every aspect of performance and design.

Given the speeds and distances involved, and the deep sea conditions in which these vessels will be operating, the research team had three major issues at the top of its list. Working with leading maritime research organisations including MARIN, TNO and Delft University, Damen undertook detailed studies of seasickness mitigation, anti-rolling measures and marine access workability.

The FCS 7011 hull form is already designed to eliminate slamming and minimise acceleration, and for all-round good seakeeping, but seasickness can still be a problem on longer passages in deep sea conditions. So the entire interior layout was analysed and measures recommended regarding the positioning of the seats and the introduction of element such as artificial horizons. The investigation regarding the minimisation of rolling when alongside a platform concluded that the installation of a gyroscope in the hull would be the most effective solution. Already in use in other mid-size vessels, this will be among the first in the FCS sector.

Marine access is of course a major element on all crew transfer vessels, and the FCS 7011 will offer the option of a motion-compensating system (plus a gangway) on its aft deck. Surprisingly there was nothing available in the market for a vessel of this size and so
Damen is therefore working with two leading gangway suppliers to come up with solutions to offer its customers. SMST, a sister company of Huisman, is playing an integral part in a number of projects with various departments within the Damen organisation,
while Ampelmann and Damen have together developed an innovative design tool. The software integrates all the major elements of the vessel such as the design and the gyroscope together with other factors including the position of the gangway. This enables the design team to gauge the impact of different gangway solutions on how the vessel moves when they are deployed, and make any necessary adjustments. The use of frog baskets will be an alternative transfer option.

Detailed design is now underway on the FCS 7011 in collaboration with the project partners and, with a fair wind, it may not be too long before the world’s offshore energy fields see these vessels taking large number of offshore workers to their destinations quickly, safely and comfortably.

A complete portfolio

The FCS 7011 is just the latest stage of an ongoing R&D programme that underpins Damen’s drive to lead the marine access sector via a comprehensive vessel portfolio. This will meet every level of need, from short-distance vessels designed to access smaller platforms in calm weather to larger, long distance vessels capable of operations in almost all sea-states. Damen already has a range of twin and monohull fast crew suppliers ranging in size from 12 metres (up to 20 personnel) to 50 metres (up to 80 personnel). These include the highly successful twin-hulled FCS 2610, which delivers over-the-bow access from a stable platform to wind turbines and other platforms, and the FCS 5009, one of which has recently successfully completed trials with an Ampelmann motioncompensated gangway, and as a result has gained much interest from the wider industry. The current flagship of the Damen marine access range, however, is the 90 metre Service Operations Vessel (SOV) that is designed to remain at sea for up to a month carrying a team of 45 maintenance personnel and fitted with onboard workshops. Access is via a motion-compensated gangway. The first of this class was launched at Damen Shipyards Galati in late March for Bibby Marine Services. Intended for use as a wind farm vessel, it will commence operations this August.