According to Sören Themann, CEO, Subsea Europe Services GmbH, finding the right hydroacoustic equipment at short notice can be challenging.

With the growing offshore wind energy sector adding significantly to the demand for commercial marine survey vessel hours, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure the readiness of vessels of opportunity to capture accurate, high quality marine data.

These usually small and fast vessels are available for hire in most ports, but finding the right hydroacoustic equipment, having it delivered, installed and calibrated can be challenging especially for urgent, on-demand surveys that could come about for countless reasons; such as re-checking data prior to starting dredging and subsea construction, or locating equipment that has been lost on the seafloor.

Often referred to as ‘gap-filler’ surveys, these projects are usually defined by the need for industry standard multibeam solutions with little notice prior to the day of the survey. This demands a certain flexibility in the logistics chain, which too often isn’t available. Even clearly urgent projects can be forced to wait due to equipment not being available locally or even in the same country.

Subsea Europe Services developed the integrated Hydrographic Survey System (iHSS) to address these problems. Able to acquire data to the new IHO S-44 Exclusive Order standards, the iHSS is a ready to mobilise solution including an R2 Sonic 2024 multibeam echosounder, workstation, software, I2NS inertial navigation system and flexible mounting. Available virtually next-day anywhere in Europe, it can take less than an hour to mobilise the system on almost any vessel.

Uniquely, the iHSS has an all-in-one pole mount design with multibeam, Inertial Motion Unit and GNSS antennas in one reference frame, which simplifies installation and reduces potential errors from inconsistent or wrong offsets, contributing to the iHSS’ ability to deliver data of the highest quality.

The combination of technical solution and streamlined logistics means that short jobs, long transit times and high-quality data are no longer a contradiction in terms for the marine survey world. This was shown in October when marine survey company Nicola Engineering GmbH was tasked by an offshore wind company to carry out a ‘rapid survey’ to locate and identify a small feature on the seabed in the North Sea.

With no commercial survey vessel availability, Nicola Engineering turned to Dutch shipyard and charter company ProMarine BV to mobilise a small, fast survey boat, and Subsea Europe Service for survey capabilities. The unique combination of the iHSS, a class approved survey boat with offshore permits in place and skilled operators met the requirement for an ad-hoc high resolution multibeam echosounder survey of a small subsea feature approximately 1m in length in water depths exceeding 30m.

The project was completed within two days of Nicola Engineering receiving its brief and the survey finished in a single day out of a small port in the Netherlands. Mobilisation and calibration of the whole system took about 2 hours and the iHSS successfully located and identified the feature faster and at a considerably lower-cost than using a commercial survey ship.

Nicola Engineering selected the same vessel and system in support of a dredging company operating at the mouth of the river Elbe in November. Here the system was used for a pre-site survey and daily progress checking, all of which were performed with incredible accuracy to the ‘aQua Norm’ of the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV) of Germany.

Clearly, surveyors would prefer to know where they are going and what they will be doing months in advance, but the dynamic nature of marine operations ensures that there will always be the need for off-plan surveys and urgent turnarounds. The iHSS has allowed Subsea Europe Services clients, including Nicola Engineering to achieve survey readiness in hours, as opposed to the more standard days and weeks.

The November addition of a new variant – the iHSS-Compact – to Subsea Europe Services’ rental pool, subscription service and sales portfolio extends the concept with a smaller solution for on-demand shallow-water projects. The system is delivered in a single, ‘person-portable’ Pelican case for fast deployment and streamlined set up and is based on the R2 Sonic 2020 multibeam echosounder.