Serving future O&M markets
How Bibby Marine Services is preparing for round 3
Chief Executive Officer
Bibby Marine Services
Seeing how a company prepares for the future is a good indicator of its confidence in the market. Likewise, a good way to judge the state of play of the offshore wind sector is to look at the level of investment and innovation taking place. Bibby Marine Services is a company involved in both those subjects. Here, CEO Stephen Blaikie talks about his vision of the future and how a new Damen design – the Service Operations Vessel (SOV) – is set to help the company achieve its goals.
We had been looking at the renewables sector for some years. One of the areas that we identified as a sustainable business model was the O&M activities of the Round 3 wind farms. With bigger turbines, at greater distances from shore and in deeper waters, these wind farms will require a vessel like the SOV.
Currently under construction, the new Damen vessel is to be called the Bibby WaveMaster 1. It is the first purpose-built design for the transfer and accommodation of offshore personnel. “Technicians can stay in the field for a number of days or weeks without returning to port. And the vessel’s motion compensated gangway will contribute to safe and effective transfer of personnel to offshore platforms and turbines.” The vessel’s design also takes into account the need for comfortable accommodation, reduced vertical accelerations and optimised workflow.
Mr Blaikie sees the new vessel playing an integral role in the Round 3 O&M activities: “The offshore wind sector has to become more cost effective – and the Bibby WaveMaster 1 can help this process,” he explains.
A broken turbine, for example, can cost a wind farm operator many thousands of euros per day. The capabilities of this vessel will help get the turbine repaired and producing electricity again – even in the most adverse conditions. Its high operability means that the job will get done quickly and effectively. Furthermore, this vessel has been designed to be as fuel efficient as possible.
The initial test results from the MARIN maritime research institute indicate that the Bibby WaveMaster 1 will be capable of accomplishing an 80% window of operability, including in conditions exceeding the current industry standard of 2.5 metre wave heights. Addressing the question of fuel efficiency is a diesel-electric main propulsion system spread over a four split main switchboard – meaning that the Bibby WaveMaster 1 will require less installed power than a conventional PSV.
View of the market
Bibby Marine Services is expecting delivery of its new vessel in 2017 – a date in the calendar that coincides with emerging Round 3 contracts. “The O&M phase will begin in 2017 and continue onwards. We are obviously not the only company targeting this market, but we believe that we can make a contribution. We have ambitions for growth – not just with one vessel, but with subsequent vessels.” Looking further ahead, Mr Blaikie concludes that the future of clean energy is assured: “The Paris Climate Agreement was the first time that United Nations leaders signed a declaration to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. The future will see demand for fossil fuels falling and renewable energy having a more important part to play. This will be an interesting transition: not an easy one, but an interesting one.”
The value of research
Dedicated R&D has always played an important role at Damen. Research into the new Service Operations Vessel, initiated more than 3 years ago, has been as committed as it is extensive. While the MARIN model testing results were clearly impressive, they do not tell the whole story. Damen Manager Research Jorinus Kalis explains: “It was positive that there was almost no movement to be seen with 2.5-metre waves coming in from the side. But another very important verification of our work was the successful combination of the vessel design with Kongsberg’s DP system.”
Model testing has been supplemented by in-house simulator testing. “Our simulation testing combines all on board parameters – including the motion compensated gangway and DP systems – with physical conditions such as waves, wind and currents.”
Damen’s SOV simulator testing is now advanced enough to be developed into a training programme. Considering future growth in O&M operations, this is an exciting prospect.