DISCOVER Magazine #7

The Bibby Wavemaster 1 Walk-2-Work vessel. One year on

Published in category: Offshore Wind

Mark Whitehead Bibby Marine Services

Mark Whitehead
Commercial manager
Bibby Marine Services

On 6th September, 2017, the Service Operations Vessel Bibby WaveMaster 1 was officially named and handed over to her owner in the Port of Rotterdam. A unique vessel that represents a major advance for the walk-2-work (W2W) concept, the project was the product of a long and close cooperation between Damen and the UK-based Bibby Group, as well as consultation across the wider offshore renewables sector. Twelve days later, the Bibby WaveMaster 1 started her first charter.

Floating accommodation for wind farm commissioning

The charterer was James Fisher Marine Services and the assignment performing winter commissioning work on the substation and 56 Siemens 6 megawatt turbines at Innogy’s new 336 megawatt Galloper wind farm off the coast of the UK.

Mark Whitehead, commercial manager at Bibby Marine Services Ltd, takes up the story. “The new vessel was very different to what we were used to,” he says. “Previously we had relied on the use of crew transfer vessels (CTVs) to shuttle technicians back and forth between the turbines and the shore, where they were generally lodged in nearby hotels. With the W2W vessel they are kept out in the field, which means that not only do they not spend several hours each day in transit, we also do not have the expense of hotel accommodation.”

Remaining on location has additional benefits. “Without the long transits we could operate in a much wider weather window,” Mark continued. “Typically, over a four to five month contract we would expect the CTVs to be unable to put to sea on around 20 to 30 days, but for this project it was just a handful. And of course without the transits the maintenance crews have more time to relax and rest. The vessel is fully equipped with a gym, sauna and other facilities, and ship-to-shore communications are excellent.”

Crew transfer vessels were not entirely left behind. For the Galloper project the Bibby WaveMaster 1 was supported by a single CTV. “By having an additional delivery mechanism dedicated to the ship we gave it extra capacity for drop-offs and pick-ups at the start and end of the working day,” explains Mark. The initial three-month contract was subsequently extended to the end of March, with the vessel exchanging the commissioning crews for teams of Siemens engineers there to perform final testing across the windfarm prior to it being switched on.

“This was very intense,” says Mark, “with a fixed deadline for the first day of operation. For this mission the vessel was essentially used as accommodation, but its efficiencies ensured that the work was completed economically and on time.”

Mobile workshop for gas platform maintenance

“The next project was rather different”, continues Bibby’s Mark Whitehead, “not least due to a shift from renewables to hydrocarbons. Total E&P Nederland contracted the vessel to perform maintenance and decommissioning work on its unmanned gas platforms in the southern North Sea, starting in April. The way the vessel was operated was much the same, aside from Total specifying the addition of a stand-by rescue RIB to be used when technicians were performing over-the-side works. However, there were many more people on board then previously. The 65 technicians embarked represented full capacity for the ship, with a total of 240 transfers each day spread across four to five connections. The vessel was worked hard, with the helipad also being used alongside the support CTV.” The warehouse area down below was also put to good use, with six containers fitted out as workshops installed in the space along with components and other equipment.

The works for Total E&P Nederland this year come to an end in mid-October, but there is a five-year framework agreement for the charter of the vessel between the two companies, and Bibby is bidding for a series of short-term projects to keep her busy over the winter months.

Fit for purpose

“The partnership with Damen over the past twelve months has been very good,” says Mark, “on both a technical and commercial basis. They are always there when we need them, with an open-door policy regarding 24/7 contact. Any warranty issues have been resolved quickly either through the provision of a solution or components being swapped out with no fuss. Communications have also been good at all levels, with the technical teams working particularly well with each other, and the various suppliers coordinated by Damen easy to work with.

“The vessel is also finished to a very high-quality standard and the workmanship is excellent, particularly with respect to the hull,” he concludes. “Not only is it exceptionally fuel-efficient, but the stability is excellent even in rough seas, which is vital to the well-being of the people staying on board for extended periods of time.”

In all, the first twelve months of operations by the Bibby WaveMaster 1 have been a big success so far for all involved, a clear indication that the future is bright for the vessel and for the concept of Damen Service Operations Vessels.


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