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Offshore Wind Journal

Offshore Wind Journal

Offshore access and vessel services market in transition

Mon 18 Feb 2019 by David Foxwell

Offshore access and vessel services market in transition
A panel discussion at the 2019 Offshore Wind Journal Conference focused on SOVs, CTVs and offshore access systems

The cost of chartering service operation vessels has increased significantly, and the market is moving in the direction of performance contracting as contracts for crew transfer vessels evolve and leading players such as Siemens Gamesa roll-our new strategies in response to a tightening market

The market for providing service operation vessels (SOVs) and crew transfer vessels (CTVs) is evolving rapidly, as speakers at the 2019 Offshore Wind Journal Conference in London in February told delegates. The cost of chartering subsea vessels for use in the offshore wind sector is increasing as demand picks up in the offshore oil and gas sector and the way vessels are contracted and what is expected of them is also changing. Changes are also afoot in the CTV market.

F3O Offshore Services managing director David Nielsen told delegates on 5 February that “everything has changed” in the market for SOVs.

“Prices have doubled,” said Mr Nielsen. As the oil and gas market has tightened so the number of subsea vessels available for offshore wind work has declined. Typically, offshore wind charters require a vessel with accommodation for 80-100 people and a 250-tonne crane.

“Although prices are much higher than they were, offshore wind companies are still chartering vessels,” Mr Nielsen said. “They are willing to pay higher rates.”

Acta Marine Wind Services general manager commercial offshore Simon Anink said the nature of the relationship between offshore wind companies and vessel owners is also changing. Mr Anink said the market was seeing more and more turnkey contracts, and much greater use of key performance indicators. Acta Marine operates purpose-built SOVs rather than subsea vessels adapted for that role. “Charterers are moving from paying for a vessel to paying for a service,” he told delegates.

Damen Shipyard Group business development manager offshore wind Peter Robert agreed with Mr Anink and said the market is moving towards performance contracting. He said this means it is more important than ever to predict the ‘workability’ of a vessel on a particular offshore wind site.

Mr Robert said this is not only a question of how a ship would perform on an offshore windfarm but how that vessel would perform when fitted with different offshore access systems. Another trend in the SOV market he highlighted is vessel sharing, with a single vessel working across more than one windfarm.

In a panel discussion on the walk-to-work market, Uptime International sales and business development director Bjørnar Huse said the level of performance expected of gangways is evolving all the time.

“Gangways are getting bigger, they are capable of lifting more equipment, but the main focus of development now is on automation and using ‘intelligent gangways’ that are less dependent on a ‘man in the loop’ to operate them. “A computer can handle anomalies and make gangway operation safer, more reliable and dependable,” he said.

Mr Nielsen concluded that he expected the cost of chartering vessels would continue to increase and the market would continue to tighten.

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy is to award the first contract under a new ‘Euro tender’ scheme that will see it contract for multiple CTVs servicing offshore windfarms on more than one project or in more than one country.

With the market for crew transfer vessels tightening, the company is looking at new approaches to contracting for vessels.

Siemens Gamesa chartering manager Craig Morton told the 2019 Offshore Wind Journal Conference that contracting the right kind of CTV at the right time had become noticeably more challenging and that, at times, it had been unable to find the right kind of vessel or any vessel for work at specific locations. He said the market for CTVs had been steadily tightening in the last 18 months.

Mr Morton said the company welcomed recent contracts for newbuild CTVs and felt that “a few more” would also be welcome.

In response to these challenges, the company has been looking at a number of ways to charter vessels. These include placing longer term contracts for CTVs, bundling tenders and linking projects. Mr Morton said he hoped the company could use its size to give as many contracts as it could to one owner. “If there are two requirements over a season, we’re looking at whether we might link those together and make it one requirement,” he said. “In this way we might be able to utilise one vessel rather than taking two from the market.”

The company hopes European tender packages will enable Siemens Gamesa to place contracts for several vessels that would service multiple windfarms. Mr Morton said doing so would provide the company with operational and commercial benefits.

At the time of writing in mid-February, a contract was expected to be awarded resulting from the company’s first Euro tender shortly. Mr Morton could not confirm how many vessels were involved or where they would work but said the company’s experience of running that tender had been very positive and a second Euro tender would be launched shortly.

In addition to cross-utilising vessels on multiple windfarms, other options the company is considering include extending contracts for high-performing vessels to avoid having to launch new tenders. By high-performing vessels he said he meant the kind of vessel that could stay offshore for prolonged periods of time, supporting SOVs on far-offshore projects.

“We’re talking about vessels with excellent seakeeping capability, accommodation for up to 24 passengers, one that has high bunker capacity and high water capacity, vessels that might actually stay offshore for a week or so during summer campaigns. We’ve had a few experiences where we haven’t been able to fulfil our requirements with these higher performing vessels.”   

Mr Morton said Siemens Gamesa also intended to make better use of data about CTV operations and market intelligence to ensure it can contract the vessels it wants when it needs them. He said that Siemens Ganesa isn’t the only company looking seriously at longer term contracts either.

As the European market for SOVs and CTVs evolves a market for both vessel types is also emerging in the US, and one of the leading designers and builders of crew transfer vessels in Europe has unveiled a new design aimed at the offshore wind market in the country.

Damen Shipyards Group’s new design, the fast crew supplier (FCS) 3410 service accommodation and transfer vessel, is derived from its successful series of Twin Axe bow designs. The Axe Bow is a patented design that allows the vessel to ‘cut’ through waves instead of slamming, providing improved seakeeping and onboard comfort.

The FCS 3410 further develops the Axe Bow and Damen Fast Crew Supplier concept, tailoring it to meet the requirements of the US market, as Damen sales manager US Daan Dijxhoorn explained.

“This vessel is well suited to numerous markets however, we have given it long endurance capability so it can remain at sea for up to five days at a time – a requirement typically seen in US operations. To facilitate this, we have designed a vessel 6 m longer than previous FCS types, able to host more onboard personnel and accommodation.”

The FCS 3410 also draws on the successful Damen accommodation support vessel 9020, a walk-to-work vessel designed for transporting and providing accommodation for offshore personnel for up to a month. It would be built at an as yet undisclosed location in the US.


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