Why Damen builds more than just ships
Director of projects
In 2019, TechnipFMC, a global leader in subsea, onshore/offshore, and surface projects, chose Damen Shiprepair & Conversion to work on three separately tendered maintenance projects, undertaken in three different yards. This summer, dive support vessel (DSV) Deep Arctic caught the headlines as it returned to operation after a comprehensive class renewal docking, where it was also refitted with a state-of-the-art remotely operated vehicle (ROV) system. This gave Damen Offshore Journal a great opportunity to hear from Brian Lynch, Director of Projects for TechnipFMC, about the maintenance experience from a client perspective.
Dependence in the details
As a Tier 1 offshore construction company, TechnipFMC pays scrupulous attention to the standard of its vessels. The fleet is in continuous operation 365 days a year, supporting offshore construction in challenging conditions, and as such must demonstrate superlative endurance and reliability. “A strong foundation is an absolute must,” says Brian, “which means a quality build is essential, and all class renewal dockings must be completed to a high level of quality in order for us to be confident the vessel can operate for such a long time at such a high level.”
The typical operational lifespan of a TechnipFMC vessel is generally 25 years, bolstered by the standard five yearly class renewal cycle conducted in order to meet classification society and flag state requirements. The scope undertaken during class renewal allows the vessel to remain in the water until its next class renewal docking five years down the line.
Given the exposure levels for vessels operating in open seas, if such a vessel were to operate beyond 25 years, it would need to undergo life extension work to ensure the hull integrity and confirm that on-board systems and machinery continue to be reliable. Meanwhile, explains Brian, “The five yearly class renewal docking allows class and maintenance experts to conduct surveys on critical aspects such as the vessel hull and thrusters, and to check all on-board equipment is assured by class, in order to keep vessels to required operational standards.”
Technological innovation also plays a role in upgrades and maintenance. Given the operations they support, TechnipFMC vessels are fitted with technically advanced and complicated mission critical equipment. While hull technology moves relatively slowly, electronic and digital technology progresses exponentially. During docking, while structural and engineering maintenance is taking place, the vessels’ mission critical equipment also needs upgrading. As Brian reminds us, vessels are expensive, and have to pay back their own cost through active service for as long as is feasible.
This year, TechnipFMC contracted Damen to perform maintenance on three vessels. At Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam, the aforementioned Deep Arctic, a DSV supporting construction operations at depths of up to 3,000 metres below the surface. At Damen Shiprepair Rotterdam, the Apache II, a reel pipe-lay vessel and at Damen Shiprepair Brest, the Deep Energy, also a reel pipe-lay vessel. While Deep Arctic and Apache II were class renewal dockings, Deep Energy was scheduled for a box cooler repair job, part of its planned scope of work maintenance. As part of the process, TechnipFMC put each job out to tender in accordance with contracting guidelines to ensure fair business practice. On choosing Damen, Brian explains, a combination of several factors led to the final decision.
Reel pipe-lay vessel Deep Energy at Damen Shiprepair Brest
It’s business, so as well as safety and quality, price is a contributing factor, and all of these jobs were competitively bid; Damen is able to quote the kind of price that makes them a competitive supplier. From a purely practical point of view, Damen also has the infrastructure to cope with taking in and working on larger vessels. Not many yards can cope with the beam of our larger vessels, and capacity is of course a critical factor.
“We’ve found from previous projects with Damen that we share closely aligned HSE standards, which makes it easy to work together. TechnipFMC’s values are based on high quality and safety standards, and in order to maintain these values we ensure those standards are extended into our supply chain. Once we have a shortlist of potential suppliers, we audit the yard where the work is to be carried out, and we sample the supply chain and pay close attention to the number of previous incidents in the yard for staff and for subcontractors.” All of this preparation, analysis and process management is a speciality in itself, which is why TechnipFMC has a dedicated team specifically looking after docking periods and maintenance projects. These project managers are the ones who build relationships with the yards, oversee all the detail of the work, and keep track of all the project control parameters. “There are many work packages developed by the technical teams involved,” says Brian, “so it’s important to have someone in place to develop the scope of the operation and keep track of all the details such as what resources and information the yard needs and what the cost of the project is going to be. The better you know a piece of work, the less surprises you’re likely to encounter further down the line.”
“In the past,” Brian continues, “we’ve learned some yards subcontract the labour on maintenance projects, drawing tradespeople such as welders, electricians and pipefitters from the market rather than having these skills on staff. While there’s nothing wrong with that in principle, we’ve found the manageability of the labour is better in Damen because most of it is drawn from their own staff. An added bonus of having this labour on staff is the mobility and flexibility it can provide, for instance the ability to move staff between Damen yards to supply the projects as needed.”
In terms of preparation, when it came to the tender for Deep Arctic, Damen sent a small team to visit the vessel for two days in order to do some surveying and check the scope of the work. “This level of attention to detail is what we require from our partners in order to build a trusted relationship,” Brian says. “From the projects we’ve worked on with Damen, TechnipFMC has developed a good level of trust between management teams in Damen. We know that we can rectify any difference of opinion, or respond to any required changes, within the partnership, so naturally we have a lot of confidence in the working relationship.”
TechnipFMC puts all its planned maintenance jobs out to tender and the management teams really appreciate not having to start from scratch with each project in terms of understanding. Brian believes both companies’ ability to retain personnel, and thus keep valuable knowledge in-house, helps to maintain an efficient programme of work. “The market hasn’t been at its strongest in recent years, but through the economic downturn both companies have done very well in managing to retain staff and retain that crucial knowledge. It makes life a lot easier for us in maintaining consistency in everything from quality standards to shared expectations to calendar synchronicity.”
Deep Arctic supports global diving operations, and is one of the most technologically advanced DSVs on the market. Given the complexity of its specifications, Deep Arctic spent much longer in the docks than a simpler vessel, such as a liner or container ship, would. The vessel was at the yard for a total of 59 days. The first portion of this was spent quayside, allowing for a lot of work on the mission critical equipment. One of the most important aspects of this upgrade was the installation of a new ROV system. ROVs undertake construction duties at depths of 3,000 metres, and the existing vehicle was ten years old and due to be replaced. The new ROV – a Schilling UHD3 – is the most advanced model on the market right now, bringing Deep Arctic’s capability fully up to date.
Diving support vessel Deep Arctic at Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam
The second stage of docking sees the vessel moved into the graving dock, allowing full access to the hull and propulsion systems. Deep Arctic was in the graving dock for 30 days, undergoing hull and structural coatings, box cooler renewals, a steering gear overhaul and thruster overhauls. “All TechnipFMC vessels have azimuth thrusters,” explains Brian. “They sit externally under the hull, with the functionality to drop down and provide excellent station keeping for our construction operations, so a key consideration for this docking was that Damen was able to provide sufficient dock block height to lift out the modules from under the vessel.”
Reliability counts for a lot, and TechnipFMC’s experience with Damen is symptomatic of the service level it strives to provide on every job to every client. From Brian’s point of view, each project was a resounding success; “I’m grateful to all the team at Damen for helping us to deliver three efficient docking scopes with zero safety incidents and with no negative environmental impacts – to receive this level of service is important for us in being able to maintain the standards of our own delivery further down the line.”
The importance of building positive working relationships, based on shared understanding, is the bedrock to the success of every operation.