DISCOVER Magazine #7

Service operations Vessel

Published in category: Markets

Purpose-built for the offshore wind market

The European offshore wind sector is undoubtedly expanding – just look at the increasing size and capacity of turbines. The wind farms themselves are also getting bigger and moving farther from shore. To top all that, market needs are advancing past the construction and installation phase into operations and maintenance (O&M) activities. Having identified a sustainable business model that encompasses O&M, Bibby Marine Services needed a vessel that was up to the job. Looking for an alternative to a Platform Supply Vessel (PSV)-based solution, the company approached Damen for a bespoke design to give them the competitive edge.

There are several boxes to tick when looking for a vessel design that is suitable for O&M activities for the offshore wind sector. Seakeeping, fuel efficiency, comfortable accommodation and effective transfer of personnel – all of these aspects have to be at their absolute optimum. This will ensure productive and safe operations of a vessel designed to stay at sea for a number of weeks without returning to port.

Seakeeping and the stability of the vessel in severe sea states are paramount

“There are a number of other designs on the market at the moment, some of these are conversions of PSVs or other vessels that have been adapted for this new role,” explains Bibby Marine Services CEO Stephen Blaikie. Damen’s Service Operations Vessel (SOV), on the other hand, has been designed from scratch. The result is a tailor-made solution to meet the very specific needs of operators in the offshore wind industry.

Quality remembered
“We first contacted Damen just under a year ago – they have had this design for the SOV for a couple of years now. We brought fresh ideas to the table and they were responsive in looking at them.” These discussions lead to the two companies signing a contract to build the first ever SOV – to be called Bibby WaveMaster I. On the subject of price, Mr Blaikie’s opinions are clear: “Damen is not the cheapest, but there’s the old saying of the quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”

“We also chose Damen because we felt that the relationship was there,” he says. “The two companies have a lot in common in terms of values. We try to anticipate the needs of the market and stay one step ahead of the competition. By using that guiding philosophy we have built a substantial business over the last 200 years.”

Window of operations
In the SOV’s design phase multiple parameters were tested at the MARIN research institute. The results from its deep water tank were excellent. When faced with 2.5-metre waves approaching from the side, the amount of roll is negligible says Mr Blaikie. “Seakeeping capabilities and the stability of the vessel in severe sea states are of paramount importance. This is because the technicians who are employed to maintain the wind turbines are not generally maritime people. The level of comfort they experience can have direct implications on their productivity.” The design takes into account the need to keep vertical accelerations and noise levels to an absolute minimum, while maintaining high levels of on board comfort. “All these factors have been designed into the vessel to ensure that they are able to do their job.”

Productivity is also linked to accessibility: If you are not able to transfer personnel, then no work will get done. It is therefore vital to maintain access – and valuable uptime – in severe sea states. Designed for central and southern North Sea conditions, the SOV has an 80% window of operability in her sights. “We want to push the limits as much as possible while ensuring that it is done safely. We believe that 80% is an achievable target.For safe transferal of technicians, the industry benchmark is 2.5 metre wave heights. However, the MARIN results indicate that we should be able to go up to 3 metres.”

The human factor
No matter how much time and energy go into the design and testing phases, there is always the ‘human factor’ to take into account. The design, however, endeavours to address the inherent unpredictability of human movements and behaviour. The work flow is designed to minimise manual handling and is divided into clean zones and dirty zones. “And most importantly, we have worked with Damen to incorporate a ‘no steps, no stairs’ policy into the design – because the technicians will be wearing immersion suits and PPE backpacks. They will be transporting equipment and spare parts onto the turbine platforms so you have to make it as safe and efficient as possible.”

We want to push the limits as much as possible while ensuring that it is done safely

Construction cooperation
Regarding the actual transfer of technical personnel to a turbine – this will occur by means of a motion compensated ‘Walk to Work’ gangway. “This is an integral part of what the vessel does. It’s good to see more companies coming into this market to provide both the owner of the vessel and the charterer with a greater choice of gangway system. That is something that has to be encouraged.”

Construction is well underway at Damen’s yard in Galati, Romania. With the keel laying ceremony taking place in March 2016, delivery is planned for mid-2017. Cooperation between shipowner and shipbuilder will be close: “Our own project manager will be visiting the yard on a regular basis and our on-site team will be there for the whole construction process and the sea trials.”

With the growing O&M requirements of the offshore wind industry, Bibby Marine Services will be in prime position to offer the market the services it requires. Mr Blaikie concludes: “We believe in this market, we believe in the vessel and we believe in our own capabilities to satisfy the demands of the customer.”


Key specifications

  • Length   90.00 m
  • Beam   20.00 m
  • Depth   8.00 m
  • Design draught    4.65 m
  • Deadweight (at design draught)   2,400 t
  • Deck space   470 m²
  • Covered store/workshop space   400 m²
  • Deck load (at 1 m above deck)   600 t
  • Speed  13.0 knots

Propulsion system

  • Main engines  Diesel-electric, 690 V, 60 Hzm
  • Power generation   2x Caterpillar 3516 gensets @ 2265 ekW each
  •   2x Caterpillar C32 gensets @ 952 ekW each


  • Crew  15 persons
  • Maintenance personnel 45 persons
  • All single cabins provided with internet, telephone and satellite TV.
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