Moving into Deeper waters
Wilson Sons is one of the major operators of offshore vessels within Brazil’s growing deepwater sector and for that reason it is keeping a close eye on the market trends which are unfolding there.
For Arnaldo Calbucci, vice president of offshore vessels, towage, ship agency and shipyards at Wilson Sons in Rio, that means looking to build bigger and better ships: Because Petrobras is such a key player in Brazil’s offshore oil and gas industry as the national oil company, Wilson Sons, like all contractors, has to keep track of the oil major’s market needs.
And as Petrobras has extended its deepwater production capacity to fields further offshore, it has created a demand for Platform Supply Vessels which can operate further offshore, and provide better performance in greater safety.
“We have a long lasting relationship with Damen Shipyards – we have built more than 60 vessels with Damen, mainly Harbour Tugs and also Platform Supply Vessels,” Calbucci explains. All told, Wilson has 16 PSVs sourced from Damen. “It is partnership,” he says. “We build here in Brazil with a Damen design, and a Damen material package and with their assistance during the construction.”
Wilson Sons developed its own PSV, designed with Damen, using a diesel electric propulsion system and a Brazilian manufacturer WEG for the electrical equipment.
“Our client Petrobras requires diesel electric propelled vessels due to the better fuel oil consumption and redundancy – on the diesels we have four generator sets on board, and two electrical motors that provide power for the propulsion system,” says Calbucci.
“So if we have one engine failure, we still have three gen sets to work or we can also sail with the vessel with only two engines. This is the redundancy issue.”
Engine redundancy is necessary to allow the ships to operate safely further offshore: “We have very deep drilling and deepwater fields,” Calbucci explains. “These are far from the coast so we need bigger Platform Supply Vessels with more fuel oil capacity, and with more cargo capacity because the vessels make longer trips. Also the vessels’ sea-keeping characteristics and the comfort for the crew is important because these fields are so far from the coast.”
Brazil’s offshore vessels have to contend with severe swells due to deepwater currents, which have to be overcome, and strong winds. “So the vessels need to be more and more powerful, and bigger. And we need redundancy for the safety of the crew,” Calbucci continues.
Since the start of Brazil’s deepwater oil and gas expansion around 20 years ago, Offshore Support Vessels have had to fulfil different operating requirements. “We started building PSVs with 3,000 deadweight tonnes, twin screws, direct driven and now we are building vessels with 4,500 dwt with diesel electric propulsion, with more power, and more speed. In the past the speed was around 10 knots, or 12 knots. Nowadays the minimum is 13 knots, with, in certain cases 15 knots so there are some changes,” Calbucci indicates.
We have a long lasting relationship with Damen Shipyards – we have built more than 60 vessels with Damen
Petrobras requires vessels to be equipped with DP2 dynamic positioning with in-built redundancy, so that a vessel cannot lose position in the event of a single fault in an active unit within the DP system such as a generator, thruster, switchboard, or remote controlled valves.
Greater crew comfort is needed too: Vessel vibration has to be minimised, and the slamming effects on hulls from wave action in rough seas receives closer attention during ship design. “This is a more technical issue, on top of sea-keeping which is related to the line of the vessel,” Calbucci says. “Damen has been paying attention on this. We are very satisfied with the results.”
In line with its emphasis of continuous improvement, Wilson Sons has to plan for new vessels to meet future trends. “Nowadays we are thinking about building vessels with 5,000 dwt cargo capacity so the future is going to be more safety, more comfort, more vibration control.
Vibration is very important because the crew stays 30 days on board and they have to stay comfortable,” Calbucci emphasises. “There is a growing concern in relation to vibration.”
He points out classification societies and labour unions are also calling for measures to minimize ship vibrations: “So we are going to face higher and higher standards.”
Currently Wilson is building a new Remotely Operated Vehicle Support Vessel for Fugro using a Damen design which is being equipped with a cinema – providing more evidence of the commitment to crew comfort.
Modern ships also feature gyms, satellite TV, and internet enabled computers. Also the company is building 12 Harbour Tugs and two PSV’s 5000 for WSUT.
Petrobras and its partners include UK-based BG Group are planning for at least 15 new Floating Production Storage and Offloading Vessels to tap giant fields including Lula and Iara in BM S 9 and BM S 11 between 2010 to 2018 with a capex of $3 billion per year for BG alone. All of these new FPSOs will need support vessels.
“We do believe in the future of the oil and gas market,” Calbucci says. “We have built a new dry dock to allow our shipyard to build bigger vessels.” This new $60 million drydock in the Port of Santos, in the city of Guarujá, is 145 metres long and 26 meters wide, and capable of constructing very large offshore support vessels.
“There is a huge demand for offshore vessels in the future because we can substitute foreign flag vessels for Brazilian flag units. It is very expensive to build in Brazil – due to the exchange rate and due to the cost of the steel and labour here in Brazil, compared with Far East shipyards – which are most probably subsidised by the government – sometimes half the price of Brazilian-built vessels, but we have the protection of the flag,” Calbucci adds.