Hervé Lapierre: Louis Dreyfus Armateurs (France)

“It’s not just the equipment and the vessels that are still changing; even the way they are used varies between manufacturers and developers. This hasn’t settled, hasn’t stabilised yet.” “It’s not just the equipment and the vessels that are still changing; even the way they are used varies between manufacturers and developers. This hasn’t settled, hasn’t stabilised yet.”

“We’d had a lot of previous experience with dynamic positioned vessels, both cable layers and seismic research ships… But my real frustration was that the DP operations are basically a disaster in terms of fuel consumption and efficiency,” said Hervé Lapierre, head of newbuilding at Louis Dreyfus Armateurs Group (LDA). “It’s due to the high level of redundancy required to keep on station.”

It’s by addressing this issue that LDA has pushed itself into the limelight with an 84m hybrid Service Operation Vessels (SOV), contracted by Ørsted for work on German cluster and Hornsey Project 2 windfarms. He explained that although the original SOV design had a motion-compensated gangway, 3D compensated crane and high-quality accommodation, LDA started looking for ways to differentiate itself in a crowded field: it certainly found it.

“This is the first support vessel that brings together variable speed engines with a DC Grid and uses a battery for redundancy,” he said; as a result, he explained, the spinning reserve can be dropped. “What this means is while it’s fully compliant, we’ve been able to downsize the installed engine power, and it’s far ahead on fuel efficiency and emissions. A side benefit is that it’s also much quieter.” Another blessing for the 60 technicians onboard.

However, energy isn’t the only issue: “Offshore wind requires very specialised technology compared with oil and gas: you have to get fragile loads – technicians – onto a very high and very small area at the top of the turbine. The size of the landing area adds one more degree of complexity.”

It isn’t the first time that Lapierre has found himself a little ahead of his time: just a little too far ahead in some cases: “In 2010, the group was ordering  bulk carriers, but they wanted an eco-ship development – not standard at all back then. We’d worked with Finnish designers but the efficiency figures were so high that the shipyards, who have to guarantee the performance, didn’t want to take the risk. Basically, they were afraid they’d miss the target. In the end we managed to convince one shipyard and the result became the forerunner of a now well-known, highly economical series.”

Even now, he explained that designing a vessel like this latest, innovative hybrid SOV isn’t a straightforward shopping list and the challenges aren’t only down to technology: “It’s not just the equipment and the vessels that are still changing; even the way they are used varies between manufacturers and developers. This hasn’t settled, hasn’t stabilised yet.”

So while this latest vessel is equipped with a technician transfer vessel as well as a gangway “it may be that one contract will want us to use the daughter craft when the weather allows, but another will want to use the gangway at all time.... so we need to work harder at integrating the technology into the logistics processes”.

It means, concluded Lapierre, “the industry will be evolving for quite some time”.

By Stevie Knight

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