Standardised shipbuilding does not imply a fixed set of capabilities. In fact, the proven technology associated with series building, especially when combined with close client cooperation, offers unbridled opportunity for the development of versatile vessels, deftly able to navigate the diverse sectors of the maritime world.
Do something. If it works, do more of it. It’s likely Franklin D. Roosevelt wasn’t thinking about shipbuilding when he uttered these immortal words, but they certainly apply. In any case, it’s a sentiment that resonates with Damen – a company whose success in shipbuilding is largely down to its standardised portfolio of vessels.
Standardisation brings many benefits; a production line process enables delivery of fast, proven, cost effective vessels for operations across the entire spectrum of maritime sectors. And, with standardised production it becomes easy – via the Damen Technical Cooperation programme – to build vessels anywhere in the world, even at a non-Damen yard.
Plethora of potential
The terms ‘standard’, ‘range’ and ‘series’ may invoke images of inflexibility – after all, if every vessel produced is the same as the one before it, what scope is there for versatility? The answer, however, is lots.
Take the Damen FCS range of vessels. The FCS stands for Fast Crew Supplier, but these vessels can do more than transfer personnel. Much more.
It all began with the FCS 3307, a 33.2-metre aluminium hulled vessel able to transport up to 75 people that developed an admirable reputation in the offshore industry. There came a point, however, when it was time to build something bigger.
Mexican offshore company Naviera Integral wanted something that was able to carry cargo as well as personnel. To these ends, the client worked closely with Damen in the development of the first FCS 5009 vessel – a 53.25-metre vessel. This was certainly a factor in its successful development – as Jaap Gelling, Damen’s Product Director High Speed Craft points out:
We had a good idea of what the market wanted, but developing the design with the launching customer only made it better. After all, they are the ones who know exactly what they want.
That’s not to say the process of development was plain sailing all the way. Based on an enlarged version of the 3307, the early FCS 5009 vessels were conceived of sharing with it a similar aluminium hull. However, experiences with Damen Stan Tenders 4309 and 4709 revealed that aluminium hulls above a certain size rapidly showed signs of fatigue.
Manager Design and Proposal at Damen’s High Speed Craft department, Wim Boerma, takes up the story: “We started to make stress calculations and we calculated the plate thickness we would need to sail for 15 years crack-free. We came to the conclusion that, for any vessel above around 42 metres, steel is a better option. Not only is it stronger, but, on a vessel that size, using steel means using less material overall. These findings led to a steel hull being selected for the FCS 5009 design.”
So practical and successful has the design proven to be, when Naviera Integral was fixing its focus on passenger transportation, rather than a passenger-cargo combination, the client approached Damen looking to develop a solution based on the 5009 – just smaller.
The result has been the Damen FCS 4008, a crew transfer vessel, 41.2 metres long, able to transport up to 100 people. Like the 5009, the 4008 pairs a steel hull with an aluminium superstructure for combined strength and speed.
Juan Pablo Vega, President of Naviera Integral said: “Damen Sea Axe vessels have excellent seakeeping characteristics and our client PEMEX sees the benefits of this. The vessels are much more comfortable for the crew and they arrive in better shape to carry out their work. The FCS 4008 is also very fuel efficient, consuming at least 10% less than conventional vessels, which is an important consideration.”
Boldly going where no workboat has been before
If a Sea Axe FCS is strong, comfortable and cost effective, it’s also beautiful to behold. The lines of the vessel are not pure functionality; the Sea Axe has style. So much in fact that the design quickly made its name in a market where very few offshore vessels have been before – the luxury world of superyachts.
Wim Boerma: “Soon after Naviera started operating these vessels they were approached by someone wanting to purchase one from them. He had seen the seakeeping performance, the abundance of deck space and the way the vessel looks, and identified the vessel’s potential as a yacht support vessel. Naviera directed this person to Damen and, in this way, the Damen Fast Yacht Support range was born.”
The Yacht Support range benefits from the synergy within the Damen Shipyards Group; the vessels are built by Damen and marketed by Amels. Rob Luijendijk, Managing Director of Amels explains:
The Sea Axe concept was very well received in the commercial market because of the performance of the vessel itself. It contributes to using the mother ship as a true luxury yacht, without being bothered by operational activities.
The Yacht Support Vessels – with a range that now spans 33 – 80+ metres, offers yacht owners the chance to make the most of their time at sea. The speed of the vessel means that it is able to respond quickly to the needs of the mother ship, whilst the ample deck space ensures plenty of room for a helicopter, toys and tenders.
With a superyacht quality paint job and artificial teak boards, the Damen Yacht Support vessel is perfectly at home amongst the gracefully bobbing masts of the Med.
Not just a pretty face
Deck space is an integral component of the FCS range’s versatility, as Jaap Gelling attests in reference to the 5009 model: “Due to the sheer amount of space available, it was relatively easy to modify for different duties.”
For example, when client ESNAAD, operating company of ADNOC, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company required not only crew and cargo transfer capabilities, but also safety standby vessels, the deck space provided much of the required adaptability. Mr Boerma: “The client required fifi, a towing hook, an emergency crane and a fast rescue craft on the aft deck. They also required the reconfiguration of the main deck to include cabins for accommodation of crew during prolonged periods at sea.”
From here, it was only a small step to an oil spill recovery version. Especially notable for this usage is that the vessel can be configured with different propulsion systems offering speeds spanning anything from 23 – 32 knots. “For oil spill response, the speed capabilities are particularly vital,” states Wim. “In this role, the 5009 is able to get where it needs to be very swiftly and limit any potential damage.”
Speed too ensures the vessel’s applicability to security operations. In 2012, Specialised Vessel Services took delivery of an FCS 5009, SVS Cochrane. The vessel joined four FCS 3707 vessels already in the company’s fleet, and took up operating as a Fast Support Intervention/Guard Ship in East Africa. To enable her to do her job, Damen outfitted the vessel with an armour-protected wheelhouse and a bulletproof onboard secure location. Also required was a single point lifting davit for launching the SVS Melissa, a Damen Interceptor.
SVS’ website makes clear the vessel’s credentials, including her versatility: “… the configuration of cabins, seating and deck layout is modular and adaptable. Cochrane is currently arranged with cabin accommodation for 17 charterer’s personnel along with 240 m2 of deck space, as well as davit and FRC. With a maximum speed of over 20 knots, full ballistic protection and a range of 6,000 nautical miles, SVS Cochrane is… designed and built with safety and security in mind.”
So well suited to security operations is the FCS 5009 in fact, that it forms the basis of the design for the Damen Stan Patrol 5009. This vessel, which will be covered at length in a forthcoming article, incorporates the successful, commercial characteristics of the 5009 design into a vessel capable of military duties.
The final word
Also demonstrative of the 5009 design’s security credentials are the words of Antonette Wemyss-Goman, Commander in the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard:
The Damen FCS 5009 is a versatile platform that can be configured to carry out various missions. As a Commander, the versatility this platform provides makes a desirable asset to consider in the range of capabilities necessary to execute my roles and functions.
10 years on from the initial FCS 3307 and this range is proving just as popular as ever. Since 2006, Damen has delivered some 94 larger FCS all over the world and has another 20 vessels on stock or under construction, for a whole range of different functions, offering clients the benefits of flexible standardisation.