‘Reliability and efficiency’ leads auto-gangway innovation

Uptime’s new 30m gangway will have autolanding functionality
Uptime’s new 30m gangway will have autolanding functionality
‘Island Clipper’ will gain Uptime’s energy-saving and auto-deployment gangway modes.  Image: Uptime International
‘Island Clipper’ will gain Uptime’s energy-saving and auto-deployment gangway modes. Image: Uptime International
Bernhard Schulte’s new SOV will also have Uptime’s 30m motion compensated gangway.  Image: Uptime International
Bernhard Schulte’s new SOV will also have Uptime’s 30m motion compensated gangway. Image: Uptime International

‘Autonomy’ and ‘energy-saving’ are the buzzwords of the moment, but with good reason, writes Stevie Knight.

The first promises to lower manpower while gaining reliability, the second keeps the power demand and environmental footprint in check – and this applies as much to gangway deployment as any other system.

Certainly, Island Clipper’s bagging of a three-year contract for Equinor rested on a willingness to engage with innovative technologies such as batteries and shore-power. However, it’s the gangway that will be central to the vessel’s combined support/walk-to-work role, so the initial 23.4m installation will benefit from Uptime’s power-saving solution when it starts work in April.

This uses a landing process which lets the system enter either a passive or ‘bumper’ mode Svein Ove Haugen of Uptime told MJ. The two types of operation, he explained, are a result of different requirements: while the wind industry often wants ‘bump against’ landings for short transfers, it sometimes requires longer contact periods and in that case a ‘cone’ landing – established in the oil and gas fields – is more appropriate, yielding energy efficiency gains.

“After establishing connection, you put the gangway into free-flow operation, so it travels with the vessel’s motion,” explained Haugen. “Of course if that motion moves outside set limits, the safety system will kick in – activating boom positioning.”

The accumulator-aided boom system also mitigates other dangerous events, as even during an electrical blackout on the vessel it retains enough residual power to allow the technicians a few minutes to get to safety – with battery-connected lights giving them enough light to see their way. All this will be automatic, said Haugen, “because if you are suffering from a blackout you will not only have the gangway to think about”.

Importantly, Haugen added that while each set of components has full redundancy, it’s particularly helpful that the accumulators are an integral part of the whole and in daily use, rather than being utilised only when hazards arise “as it means that in an emergency, you won’t suddenly find your safety system isn’t working”.

But while the Island Offshore support vessel is going out on its first runs with an interim, 23.4m rental kit, a 30m gangway with very new capabilities is being built for installation onboard Clipper in early 2020.

This new 30m model goes beyond the utility line and cargo transfer capacity and even the energy-saving element inherited from the earlier models: firstly it comes with a number of different options: a fixed or adjustable pedestal, an elevator tower in a variety of positions - or simply as an add-on for existing installations.

But most importantly, this new gangway benefits from a full, autonomous landing mode. This system combines both 2D cameras and 3D sensors to locate the gangway touch-down spot. But most importantly, it’s primed to learn.

The gangway is ‘taught’ to identify the landing point, but after that, the system will recognise the spot, said Haugen, so after a check, “it can then get on and complete the connection by itself”.

Island Clipper is not the only current contract for Uptime’s 30m transfer system. It’s also caught the eye of big (and growing) Bernhard Schulte group: as a result, it is set to take pride of place on a new wind farm Service Operation Vessel currently under development with Ulstein Design & Solutions. Interestingly, this is likewise due to be delivered in 2020.

The new system is therefore set to break into the market with a bang. Haugen believes that these latest innovations will both assist operations and reduce the human risk factor, and he predicted that these installations are set to prove that recent innovations are both more reliable and more energy efficient than crew-driven operation.

Therefore, while this autolanding capability is presently focused on new transfer systems, he expects that the successful technology will filter back through to previous installations “becoming available as an upgrade for existing 23.4m gangways”.

By Stevie Knight

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