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Developing the motion compensated lifting solutions that the offshore industry is looking for

Developing the motion compensated lifting solutions that the offshore industry is looking for


When the company was founded in 2007, Ampelmann was one of the pioneers in the industry that was later coined Walk to Work or in short W2W. Fundamental to the entry to this market was motion compensation technology. A structure on six cylinders (comparable to an inverted flight simulator) is used to compensate the motions of a vessel in all degrees of freedom, resulting in a motionless platform on a moving vessel. This platform was utilised to support a gangway to safely transfer people from a vessel to a fixed offshore structure.

From the first commercial project in 2008, the size of Ampelmann’s fleet of systems has grown to 60 today. Initially envisaged to support the growing renewables market, operators working in offshore Oil & Gas started embracing this new method of enhancing productivity, increasing safety and reducing operational cost simultaneously.

The early adopters of this new way of working already saw a potential to go beyond personnel transfer. Usually, the personnel being transferred required some additional tools and equipment to execute their work, or at least bring a decent lunch to an abandoned platform. In consultation with these clients, Ampelmann developed a small modification to the tip of the gangway, enabling the transfer of small cargo loads (up to 100 kg) from the vessel to the platform and back. This add-on has proven its use and was rolled out to the rest of the operational fleet.

Combining people and cargo transfers proved successful and added value to the W2W scope of the client. With this success, there was an appetite for more, particularly when it came to size of the loads that could be transferred. Several prototypes were developed and tested to further explore the possibilities of motion compensated lifting. A variety of innovative gangway configurations using cargo trolleys, a telescopic crane boom and even a bespoke 8-tonne lifting gangway were put to test over the years, providing invaluable lessons learned.

It was in 2015 that all these learnings came together and were incorporated into the design of a new system, the E1000.

Gangway to crane mode with a push of a button

The E1000 system combined a smooth flow of people over the gangway with a 1-tonne lifting functionality. In the past, switching between people and cargo mode was manual. Pins were manually deployed to change from people to cargo transfer mode and the entire conversion process took at least ten minutes to complete.

As the E1000 gained traction in the market and efficiency became increasingly sought-after, there was the need to reduce operational time and improve flexibility. Ampelmann responded to this trend by developing a mechanism that not only made the switch from people to cargo transfer mode easier, but much faster, too. The E1000 now uses remote-controlled hydraulic pin pushers to fixate the gangway booms in less than one minute with the push of a single button.

With this plug-and-play system, any standard PSV becomes a very useful tool in supporting offshore construction and maintenance projects.

Over the years, it has predominantly been offshore wind installation projects that have made use of the E1000. To execute their work, offshore technicians require a lot of equipment that is not at hand on the turbines. This includes their tools, generator sets, winches and spare parts. All these items could now be easily transferred together with the technicians, from the same vessel, using the same system in an operation that is hardly impacted by the wave conditions.

The 1-tonne lifting requirement is now more or less the standard in offshore wind projects, where the equipment is designed to match this requirement. Ampelmann has a fleet of eight E1000s systems operating.

The E1000 makes first moves in Oil & Gas

A few years back, it was its clients that prompted the Dutch company to look into motion compensated lifting solutions and more recently, the Oil & Gas sector also adopted this innovation.

The E1000 recently supported cargo lifts for an IRM project in the Oil & Gas sector for a North Sea operator and provided not only the W2W solution, but also the capacity to lift necessary tools and equipment. As a result, it supported critical maintenance work on a Single Point Mooring (SPM) platform, as well as the refurbishment of a helideck.

The system was installed on a 12.1m pedestal and operated at a height of nearly 40m above sea level. Over the course of the 30-day campaign, it helped transfer close to 120 tonnes of cargo.

Up next: Diversifying Ampelmann’s cargo solutions

With the E1000s having now successfully operated in a number of offshore wind projects and having transferred close to 16 million kilogrammes of cargo worldwide, there is an increased interest from clients to see what else the Ampelmann cargo lifting fleet can do.

On the one hand, not every project has a heavy lifting requirement, which is why a 250kg lifting add-on is currently being rolled out over the company’s fleet of A-type systems. The A-type is Ampelmann’s signature solution, which enables W2W operation in sea states up to 3m Hs. Incorporating this add-on feature allows for small cargo transfers to be made on a project, relieving the personnel from using drag bags and other inconvenient working methods.

On the other end of the spectrum, a number of customers have seen the potential of the E1000 but with an increased lifting capacity. For offshore wind, the general trend is an increase of turbine sizes and with that, the size and weight of tools, equipment and other parts that need to be transferred to the turbines.

To meet the increasing requirements for lifting capacity, Ampelmann’s engineering team was given the challenge to develop a new system using the existing E1000 platform. By doing so, all the operational experience and system improvements of the E1000 could be conserved. The engineering team stretched the capacity of the system and their effort has resulted in an impressive 5-tonne fully motion compensated lifting capability. This system is assembled and going through final certification on the quayside in Rotterdam, ready for operations in the beginning of 2021.

This increase of motion compensated lifting capacity opens up potential new applications in Oil & Gas projects as well. Supporting milk runs to normally unmanned installations (NUIs), to name one, where the cranes on the NUIs are becoming redundant with large OPEX savings on maintenance and inspection. The 5-tonne lifting capacity is verified with operators to be enough to transfer lifting containers with their liquids, chemicals, lubricants and spare parts.

Ampelmann’s continuous development of cargo lifting solutions confirms its client-centric approach and ability to tailor its solutions quickly and to the right purpose. The company’s systems add value to offshore operations by improving efficiency and providing the highest standard of safety on the open sea.

Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE.

Published: 06-01-2021

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