L.A.T.C Marine blazes the trail in high-speed marine access
In March 2018, the first Damen Fast Crew Supplier (FCS) to be fitted with a motioncompensated gangway went into commercial operation in the Gulf of Guinea, providing crew transfer services for ExxonMobil (Nigeria). The vessel, MV Dijama, is a 50-metre FCS 5009 owned and operated by L.A.T.C Marine and the gangway a version 3 L-Type developed by Ampelmann Operations BV. The event was a milestone for the global offshore energy sector, marking the introduction of the first Damen Fast Crew Supply Vessel (FCS) with a motion-compensated gangway to enter commercial service.
Up until now these gangways have been mounted usually on larger OSVs and other similar vessels but, after years of development and trials, the entering into commercial service of L.A.T.C’s newly upgraded, light-displacement FCS marks the start of a new era of fast, safe crew transfers by the offshore energy industry.
The right place at the right time
The decision by L.A.T.C Marine to take a leadership role in the adoption of this new form of marine access was based on a number of factors. “The international oil companies (IOCs) in the region are pushing hard for their suppliers to find ways of controlling costs while improving safety,” says Gbolahan Shaba, CEO at L.A.T.C Marine.
We immediately recognised that high-speed marine access of the type offered by Damen in partnership with Ampelmann was therefore well worth investigating.
Historically, personnel transfers from vessels in the Gulf of Guinea are typically done using traditional rope swings and baskets lifted by cranes. These techniques do have their risks and with the IOCs increasingly aware of their need to maximise safety there is clearly demand there, as elsewhere, for fresh thinking to safeguard employees in an efficient and economical manner.
Maintaining a technological lead
The combination of fast crew suppliers and advanced motion compensated gangways not only offered a solution for the IOCs, it also matched with L.A.T.C Marine’s goal of being a technological leader in offshore support in the Gulf of Guinea. It already operates one of the most modern fleets in the region, comprised of two Damen FCS 5009 vessels and one Damen Platform Supply Vessel (PSV) 3300, all delivered in the last three years, and a second PSV 3300 about to enter service. All are equipped with DP. With its strong asset base, the company continually looks for similarly sophisticated solutions to add to their capabilities. So the opportunity to retrofit an Ampelmann L-Type gangway to what is probably the ideal vessel was well worth evaluating, and the decision to go ahead with the installation was finally taken. The installation took place in early 2018 at Damen’s Nigerian service hub at Port Harcourt with Damen and Ampelmann working together to ensure a smooth integration.
Spreading the word
Gbolahan Shaba reports that the number of transfers made using the new gangway has been increasing steadily since the service became available, although the rate is still nowhere near that of the North Sea. “This is a paradigm shift,” he explains, “and it will take time for operators to get accustomed to the new technology. There is understandably some reluctance when it comes to getting people to give it a try, so we are working to build awareness of its capabilities and holding demonstrations. We are also talking with the platform managers and encouraging the workers themselves to see the benefits. Training our own crew is also vital, so that the gangway always performs at its best.”
With its ‘get it right first time’ philosophy, L.A.T.C Marine has done everything it can to ensure the success of its investment. From the initial research and evaluation to matching the right gangway to the right vessel and then crew training and rigorous maintenance, L.A.T.C is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the marine access concept has the best possible chance of going mainstream in the Gulf of Guinea. The L.A.T.C Marine team do not intend to rush the process, however; finding the right partners with the same values and attention to detail as themselves to adopt the new technology is key to winning confidence and acceptance.
If the enquiry rate is anything to go by, then word is already spreading fast. Both Ampelmann and L.A.T.C have been receiving expressions of interest regarding the equipment and its capabilities, and L.A.T.C would welcome the opportunity to increase its capacity over time. Gbolahan Shaba is positive. “We are starting to see additional investment coming into the Gulf of Guinea, partly as a result of the improvement in the oil price and also due to expectations of increased political stability in the region. We expect demand for this game-changing technology to gain momentum.” As experts in all aspects of supporting offshore producers, L.A.T.C certainly has the experience to make it work, and with its Damen vessels and Ampelmann gangways, it will have an unbeatable offer.