DISCOVER Magazine #7

A purpose-built SOV with Walk-to-Work capability

Published in category: Offshore Wind

Bibby Marine Services, Stephen Blaikie Chief Executive OfficerStephen Blaikie
Chief Executive Officer
Bibby Marine Services Ltd.

When the pioneering Bibby WaveMaster 1 enters the North Sea offshore wind market in September, it has the potential to be a game changer in the industry.

Bibby WaveMaster 1 is the first of Damen’s purpose-built, Service Operations Vessels (SOV) with Walk-to-Work capability dedicated to the transfer and accommodation of offshore personnel.

Stephen Blaikie, Chief Executive Officer, Bibby Marine Services Ltd, explains what makes this vessel special. “In the first place this Damen SOV has been designed specifically to operate in the North Sea offshore wind farm market. Damen took the metocean conditions, wave heights, wave interval, wind and currents into account and this information helped determine the correct hull shape to minimise vessel movements.”

The vessel underwent rigorous model testing and simulator tests at MARIN. “Significant wave height is just one part of the equation and often given too much weight; the gangway motion, vessel hull shape dynamics and the DP system all have to be considered; and how these individual components interact with each other is crucial to the design and ‘certainty of access’ to offshore structures in severe weather conditions.”

The Damen SOV has several differentiating features. A key factor is the unique, multi-stop elevator, Mr Blaikie points out. “This is linked to the gangway, so a technician can go from the warehouses or deck level straight upwards on the elevator, over the gangway (which will be as horizontal as possible) and directly onto the turbine TP, without climbing a step.”

Safe, stepless system

This stepless system is in line with recent customer requirements, he emphasises. “We have done our best to anticipate market demands, therefore we asked Damen to integrate this new stepless approach into the vessel. As far as we know, when we launch, this will be the first offshore wind vessel with this stepless system to be active in the market.”

Safety and comfort are key elements of the design. Bibby Marine Services is keenly aware that many of the technicians in the offshore wind market do not have a seafaring background so it is vital to make working conditions as comfortable as possible to assist in staff relaxation and retention.

Another important development of the Bibby WaveMaster 1 project is the joint development of a Hardware In the Loop (HIL) simulator, which is now setup in the Damen R&D Department.

Mr Blaikie says this is essentially an ‘electronic version’ of the vessel, with its real life DP controller and Uptime W2W gangway control system all linked to the ‘virtual’ ship. “We can see the simulated performance of the ship and its certainty of turbine/OSS access for any known metocean conditions and known wind farm locations in Europe.

Maintenance planning

“This means we can provide accurate predictions about the vessel’s accessibility for any day of the year given certain metocean conditions. This simulator tool is proving invaluable with customers. We can say to wind farm developers what percentage performance they can expect to achieve in terms of accessibility, during any month of the year using Bibby WaveMaster 1. This ability is enormously important for planning.”

And in the wider context, we all want to drive down the costs of energy, he adds. “With a tool like HIL it helps this objective in a small way because wind farms can look to make efficiencies in maintaining turbines. This tool is an important aid for improving planning.”

Comfort levels are also high on board, with the Bibby WaveMaster 1 accredited Comfort Class 2 in terms of noise and vibration levels. “She is a very quiet ship and everything is being done to minimise seasickness.”

Technicians have large bedrooms and beds are placed longitudinally with the vessel, which reduces potential seasickness. “Damen and Bibby have thought about many small things like this. The wellbeing of the crew and technicians is very important. If they are not able to work because they are feeling ill, productivity goes down.”

The vessel hit the water at Damen Shipyards Galati in Romania on March 24 and is undergoing further outfitting. She will commence sea trials soon with Bibby’s own marine staff on board and is expected to leave Galati for the North Sea and be in port ready for business by end-August.

Early delivery

Mr Blaikie comments: “Bibby WaveMaster 1 is on schedule and we are very pleased with the quality of the build. Everything has gone to plan absolutely; the delivery date has even been brought forward by a couple of weeks.

“We chose Damen because of the back up provided and the service levels offered. Damen is a similar sized company to Bibby and also family owned. I think we operate in a similar way with similar values and culture, which is important.”

Although Bibby is not yet in a position to say which offshore wind farm will be its first project due to ongoing negotiations currently taking place, there is plenty of interest, stresses Mr Blaikie.

A decision was taken a few months ago to increase the POB to 90 including crew, rather than 60 persons. “This was in line with requests from customers which are interested in offshore wind farm construction support rather than just operations and maintenance activities.”

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