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02.2010.

[ IN DETAIL MARINE ]

[ AHTS VESSELS ]

T E X T: R I C K M C A R T H U R P H OTOS : W RTS I L

STRONGER, SAFER, AND FAR MORE EFFICIENT


Powerful and versatile members of the offshore oil and gas industry, Anchor Handling Tug Supply (AHTS) vessels come in a wide range of shapes and sizes.
he move to exploration and of equipment such as anchors, TRIPS BY production activities in deeper chain and wire are much heavier SUPPORT waters is leading to larger and than in normal offshore locations. stronger ships that are much more fuel This in turn means bigger vessels VESSELS CAN efficient and safer to operate. Wrtsil with adequate stability and more Ship Designs successful VS491 AHTS is TAKE HALF A DAY installed power. The VS 491 is a at the forefront of these developments. typical example of an optimised OR EVEN MORE design which, in addition to its AHT Oil and gas reserves are becoming harder to find and exploit. Drilling functionality, has full underdeck EACH WAY. further out at sea and deeper into the capacity for items of cargo usually ocean floor - operations at depths greater than 1000 handled by dedicated platform supply vessels. feet (305 metres) are known as deepwater - used to As deepwater rigs are usually much further from the be prohibitively expensive, but higher oil prices and shore, trips by support vessels can take half a day or technological advances have made it feasible. At the even more each way, he says. Crewing and fuel costs end of 2006, estimates indicated that some 10% of make using one larger boat for such long trips a much known oil reserves, approximately 100 billion barrels, better option than employing several smaller vessels. are in deepwater locations. Also, fuel consumption in this new generation Support for drilling deepwater operations is provided of AHTS vessel is only about half that in vessels by offshore supply vessels (OSVs). The power required designed before higher oil prices and environmental to position and move oil and gas drilling and production issues became part of the agenda. While much of the platforms comes from Anchor Handling Tug Supply current fleet uses more than 25 tonnes/day at a speed (AHTS) vessels. Equipped with powerful engines and of 12 knots, the VS 491 uses only 16 tonnes under the winches, they can tow rigs from one location to another, same conditions, even though it is a significantly larger position and lift anchors, and also deploy items of vessel. Its optimised hull form and propulsion solution equipment required for oil and gas production. is a win-win solution that reduces running costs and improves the environmental footprint. Rougher conditions and longer distances Everything, including the AHTS vessel itself, has to Equipped for multiple roles be bigger in deeper water, says Tor Vestbstad, Sales As well as providing anchor-handling and towing Manager, Wrtsil Ship Design in Norway. Items services, AHTS vessels can be equipped for fire-fighting

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[ AHTS VESSELS ] and rescue operations and oil recovery, and sometimes act as standby rescue vessels for oilfields in production. They have to be able to operate world-wide, have sufficient power to tow offshore structures and maintain position while securing anchors, and also, when drilling or production work is completed, have winches powerful enough to break out the anchors securing a platform to the ocean bed. Fire-fighting capabilities require the ability to pump and spray a minimum of several thousands of tons of water per hour, says Vestbstad. In addition to tanks suitable for use in oil recovery operations, specialised cranes and a large, open deck for storing DECK OPERATIONS and handling anchors, CAN BE HANDLED AHTS vessels have a largeWITHOUT EXPOSING diameter stern roller which enables anchors, chains PERSONNEL TO and structures to be safely received. Multifunctional DANGER. high-power winches allow the chains and anchors to be handled in a safe and controlled manner. A series of 10 vessels to the VS491 design currently being built for Siem Offshore ASA at the Kleven shipyard in Norway is designed to have a bollard pull of 280-300 tonnes, he says. (Bollard pull is the pulling force a vessel can exert under its own propulsion, and is tested by arranging for the vessel to pull a wire fixed to the shore and then measuring the force in the line.) Siem Sapphire, the third in the series, was delivered in March this year and managed 301 tonnes. Just a couple of years ago the biggest anchor handlers had a bollard pull of some 200 tonnes. This shows how things are changing as deepwater operations become more common. Bollard pull is a function of engine

performance, propulsion efficiency and hull shape. In the Siem Sapphire, the 301 tonnes is achieved by the two 8000 kW main engines, a very good result in terms of the installed power, says Vestbstad. The VS491 is a state-of-the-art, high-end AHTS vessel with a wider, more beamy hull, shaped to make the overall design as efficient as possible in all its operational modes. Safety is high on the agenda As well as ensuring that the hull design and the location of winching equipment allows an AHTS vessel to carry out its primary towing and anchor-handling operations safely, reducing the number of crew members required on deck is another priority. Dealing with a heavy anchor when the ships stern is facing a 5-metre sea is very dangerous, says Vestbstad. In addition to other systems which promote safe operation, VS491 vessels in the Siem series feature a travelling crane equipped with robotic arms and controlled remotely from the ships bridge. As this crane can move up and down the whole of the aft deck, many difficult deck operations can be handled without exposing personnel to danger. Another design feature which makes a significant contribution to safety and comfort on board is high-quality accommodation, equivalent to that found in good hotels. Modern facilities make it easier for shipowners to recruit good people and ensure they get proper rest between shifts. The VS491 is one of those cases in which all the parties involved are happy, says Vestbstad. Kleven Maritime, the shipyard building the Siem series, is making a profit, and Siem Offshore, the company operating them, is pleased with the way they are performing. Good design always pays off.

Flexible and efficient power provision


Unlike bulk carriers or tankers, whose hulls and propulsion systems can be optimised for long voyages at steady speeds, offshore support vessels have widely differing modes of operation. Sometimes they are in transit from one location to another at moderate or high speeds, and very often they are holding position using dynamic positioning (DP) technology in changing weather and sea conditions. Diesel-electric (DE) solutions are common in the offshore market. The principle behind their operation is to split the load between different engines. The aim is to keep the engines generating electrical power running at 80-90% load, the point in their operating range at which they are most fuel efficient. One problem with normal DE systems is that there are electrical losses which can only be avoided by using a mechanical solution, says Vestbstad. In the VS491, a socalled hybrid propulsion solution provides most of the power for larger loads mechanically while covering lower levels of demand with what could be called a boosting electrical DE system. Its an intelligent way of combining the advantages of DE systems and a mechanical solution.

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