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High Speed Sailing Transforms Crew Transfers

aqua helix
Aqua Helix (Image courtesy Damen)

Published Apr 19, 2022 12:26 PM by Damen Shipyards

New modes of fast, reliable and efficient transport for offshore crew and provisions promise to boost offshore energy operations. These vessels sail at high speed in the roughest conditions, and they are able to provide safe and easy transfer from ship to offshore structures, offering crew welfare and comfort at increased passenger capacity.

The range of Fast Crew Suppliers (FCS) from Damen Shipyards offers crew transfer vessels that are able to sail at speeds up to 40 knots and conquer waves at significant wave heights up to three meters, which are typical North Sea conditions on windy days. It is the Axe Bow that enables the largest crew supply vessel to date, the FCS 7011, to power up the waterjets to reach such impressive speed in waves. Likewise, the twin axe bow design of the FCS 2710 ensures seaworthiness at speed in rough conditions. Both vessels are purpose-built to offer very comfortable crew transport at impressively modest fuel consumption and emissions.

Proof of concept

Currently the FCS 7011 is finalizing crew change trials on the North Sea. This final testing is to demonstrate the proof of concept of the 122-passenger vessel, following extensive sea trials and testing of the onboard Ampelmann stabilized gangway.

The fast monohull FCS 7011, with a length overall of 73.6 meters and a beam of 11.2 meters, is built in aluminum to reduce weight. The axe bow greatly reduces slamming and pitching. The slender hull tends to roll when the boat is stopped or sails slowly, but the biggest gyro stabilizer in the world reduces rolling at zero speed down to 10 per cent of the motions that would occur without stabilization. 

When the FCS 7011 positions itself along a platform or station at sea where the transported offshore workers need to step on to, the Ampelmann gangway can swing out over a 180-degree scope. This allows the vessel to position itself with a favorable heading to the incoming wind and waves. The gangway extends to a length of 26 meters. Gyroscope-fed computer technology enables the Ampelmann S-type stabilized gangway to be completely motionless in front of the platform balcony, so the offshore workers can step over with great ease, even in harsh and remote offshore locations.

Major offshore energy players like Shell and Exxon provided input that inspired Damen engineers to develop the FCS 7011. Damen and Ampelmann joined forces to operate this game changer in offshore crew transport in-house. The passenger capacity of 122 persons is bigger than the typical crew change at North Sea platforms. Thanks to its speed and big capacity, Aqua Helix can make a tour along multiple platforms for crew changes and still offer competitive transfer time and comfort when compared to helicopters.

Larger numbers of crew within one transfer are common off the coast of West African, Australia, Guyana, Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico, where offshore platforms are often further off the coast. The FCS 7011 is ideally suited to bring these larger numbers of energy professionals to their working stations and back to shore.

Hybrid

The twin axe bow FCS 2710 is a catamaran that offers capabilities that fit offshore supply at a slightly smaller scale, and it has attracted keen industry appeal. In particular, the offshore wind industry embraces the possibilities offered by this vessel. Also on this vessel, the axe bow design enables fast sailing on rough seas. As with any catamaran, the hull offers good stability. In their commitment towards sustainability, in line with the objectives of the global offshore wind domain, Damen Shipyards has developed next to the fuel-efficient diesel-powered FCS 2710 - the FCS 2710 Hybrid. With a length of 26.8 meters and a beam of 10.5 meters, the vessel can take 26 passengers, offers an additional 90 square meters of deck area and can reach speeds of up to 25 knots. A 232 kWh battery pack allows sailing with zero emissions in port and within the offshore wind farm. The generators and main engines are quite fuel efficient even without the electric support and all comply to IMO tier III emission standards.

While a fleet of FCS 2710 vessels is already in operation, Damen Shipyards has started construction of three more of these hybrid vessels at the Damen Antalya yard to be built in stock. The shipbuilder is convinced these vessels offer such superior capacities for offshore operators, and they will be sold at short hand. For clients, getting the vessels from stock means extremely short delivery times. Customization with cranes, additional battery packs or other deck equipment is also available at short notice.

Change

Damen is set to revolutionize the offshore crew transfer market with their fleet of fast and efficient vessels. This fleet offers a viable alternative for helicopters. Improvement of safety, reduction of cost and increased efficiency are the pillars of how Damen and its partners will change this market, with the “flagship” FCS 7011 soon demonstrating her potential to the offshore energy market.

This content appears courtesy of Damen. All of the Damen Fast Crew Supply models can be reviewed online at www.damen.com.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.