High Speed Transfers. A new company for a new concept
High Speed Transfers
On 2nd May this year Damen announced the introduction of its latest Fast Crew Supplier, the FCS 2710. Designed to build on the success of the best-selling FCS 2610, first introduced in 2011, the FCS 2710 retains the successful twin hull and Axe Bow design that made the FCS 2610 the industry standard for the wind farm support sector. However, as the offshore energy industry has evolved in recent years so has its requirements for crew transfer vessels along with the regulations that govern them. The FCS 2710 is Damen’s response to the new regulations plus the feedback that it has been receiving from across the sector. The results is a vessel that retains much of the fundamental design of the 2610, but delivers the additional capacity and performance sought by today’s operators.
Making a good design even better
“The 2610 really was the first vessel of its kind. It’s an excellent boat, but of course there are always lessons to be learned,” says Wim Boerma, product manager at Damen’s High Speed Craft product group. “We took the very best of the 2610 in all its fundamental characteristics and updated it to deliver more flexibility, more tank capacity, greater usable deck space, increased comfort and more accommodation.”
Damen achieved this in part by making the hull of the FCS 2710 one metre longer than that of its predecessor and also approximately one metre higher. The extra metre above the waterline not only increases the hull volume but also allows the vessel to operate in wave heights of more than two metres. This substantially increases the range of weather conditions in which it can be at sea, an important consideration given the longer distances that maintenance crews are now having to travel.
It can also carry more than twice as many passengers as its predecessor; up to 60 persons including crew. However the standard configuration is 24, and HST has opted for a layout that accommodates 26. this takes advantage of recent changes in legislation and has been done by placing the superstructure asymmetrically and moving it to the port side of the vessel. The result is a larger deckhouse and, in combination with locating cabins on the lower deck, a more than doubling of the interior volume available for accommodation, all without any loss in deck space available for cargo transportation.
High Speed Transfers Ltd.
With the build of the first hull well advanced, the search was on to identify a buyer for the launch vessel. As luck would have it, at the same time a team of three experienced Britons from the wind farm support sector were in the process of starting their own independent company with the aim of bringing a new approach to crew transfer operations. Their perception of what the wind farm operators sought from their crew transfer suppliers matched the feedback that Damen had been receiving and so talks got underway.
The result was the order for the first vessel being signed in early 2018, immediately after High Speed Transfers Ltd. was officially incorporated. Damen also arranged the financing for the project, which greatly speeded up the proceedings. The success of the negotiations despite the buyer being a start-up was due to the experience and knowledge of the crew transfer sector that the three directors of the new company brought with them, and the shared confidence that both parties had in the new design. They had worked with Damen vessels at their previous companies and appreciated the quality and the level of support that Damen offers. Their business plan focused initially on serving the offshore energy sectors in German and UK waters, but their long-term ambitions were, and are, global.
Heading the High Speed Transfers team in the role of managing director is Tom Nevin. He had spent the last 20 years working for a number of operators in the sector and in recent years had come to recognise that there was unsatisfied demand for larger, more comfortable vessels. These would be both more efficient and would also ensure that the maintenance teams would be delivered to their turbines in the best possible shape, even in poor weather. However, existing operators understandably had a certain inertia when it came the making the upgrades, not least due to having existing assets in reasonable condition. So Tom along with his partners decided that by starting their own independent business they could not only set out with a blank canvas but also leapfrog the existing providers by offering customers a new, advanced vessel type not seen before.
Finding the right kind of vessel was not without its challenges. Alternative vessel types were hard to find, and experience had taught Tom and his partners that operating prototypes could bring with it various unexpected issues including that of accessing timely support, vital in their business. However, with his experience of working with Damen Fast Crew Suppliers in the past, including the FCS 2610, when he heard that its successor was under development contact was quickly made and both parties immediately established that they were working towards the same goals.
“We realised that the new FCS 2710 would work well for HST in a variety of ways,” says Tom Nevin. “Given our previous experiences with prototypes, the fact that it was based on proven technology was a big plus. Also working with a European builder with a reputation for quality and innovation, as well as unrivalled expertise with this particular class of vessel, gave us confidence as owners and we knew would do the same for our prospective clients.
“They also keep things simple where possible. For example, the vessel’s management system does not require a 1,000-page manual to understand and operate. And the planned maintenance programme, managed by people who know the vessel from top to bottom, gives us one less thing to worry about.”
Taking delivery of HST Hudson
HST took delivery of their FCS 2710 on 3rd July at the 21st Seawork International workboat event, held in Southampton. There the naming ceremony took place, with the vessel named the HST Hudson, after Tom’s young son. There followed a frantic three days with a non-stop flow of visitors that generated a series of enquiries regarding its availability after which the HST Hudson, after a quick stopover at Damen Shipyards Gorinchem for some finishing touches, headed back down the English Channel and up into the Irish Sea to begin her first contract; operating between the port of Barrow-in-Furness on England’s north-west coast and the Walney offshore wind farm.
“Her performance has been excellent so far,” said Tom, a month after the HST Hudson began operations. “We’ve had a lot of poor weather and the rough sea conditions to go with it, but her highly experienced master reports that the slamming that he has encountered on other catamaran hull types has been completely eliminated. He says that the ride is smooth, the comfort and quality excellent, and it’s the best crew transfer vessel that he has ever operated. Compared to other vessels, it’s the difference between a bus and a limousine!”
The contract is for 24/7 operations with a one-hour turnaround time and runs until the end of October with scope for extensions.
With the initial success of the FCS 2710 already apparent, Tom Nevin is already looking to the next stage. A second vessel is planned for 2019 and he and his partners are exploring other business opportunities that could lead to more boats in the near future. “While the crew transfer vessel market is relatively mature,” says Tom, “there is demonstrably a big shortage of vessels around the 27-metre size capable of taking 24 passengers, with the UK the largest market due to its leadership in the industry. There may be a call for even larger vessels in the future in the 30 to 40-metre range, but with the FCS 2710 as our vessel of choice I think we are future-proofed for at least the next ten years.”
The growth of the offshore wind sector and its recent regulatory changes have once again given Damen the opportunity to demonstrate its ability to respond rapidly to changing trends by combining proven hull forms and technology with innovative solutions. Thanks to the foresight and confidence of Tom Nevin and his colleagues at High Speed Transfers, the FCS 2710 has got off to a flying start and with a fair wind will be even more successful than its predecessor.