Arctic & offshore competence gives competitive edge

In the international maritime industry, the 4.6-million-person nation of Norway is a world leader in such areas as ship’s gear and shipping IT applications, to name a few. Furthermore, the country’s closeness to the rough and challenging Arctic nature – and the great care taken to educate personnel in the industry to handle such conditions –  gives Norway an important competitive edge.

Arctic Bow Loading of Crude Oil

A world leader in the design and supply of all types of deck machinery and mooring systems for marine and offshore applications, Aker Kværner and its Aker Kværner Pusnes division knows that shipping gear demands high quality in Arctic conditions.

 

There are many environmental concerns operating in the fragile Arctic ecosystem, but Leif Haukom, the president of Aker Kvaerner Pusnes, also understands that technology does not develop in a vacuum. The company has designed and implemented a bow loading system for crude oil operating in Arctic conditions, and Haukom believes it is possible to exploit petroleum resources without too much risk to the environment.

 

“What is important with our system is that it is it has zero emissions and is designed to operate in temperatures as low as -46°C,” he says.

 

In contrast to the more traditional bow loading systems, this alternative system involves offshore loading in which the 20-inch hose connection point is located well within the deck area of the shuttle tanker. Traditional shuttle tankers have an external connection point (coupler) protruding from the bow of the shuttle tanker during loading. A dedicated mooring system is included as part of the total equipment package for securing the shuttle tanker to the offloading facility.

 

Together with Rolls-Royce Marine, Aker Kværner Pusnes dominates the market for deck machinery and mooring systems with a combined market share of more than 60 percent. And Aker Kværner is the world’s leading producer of offshore loading systems.

 

“Annually, we supply deck machinery to more than 160 ships worldwide. Strong markets and competitive solutions strengthen our position,” he says.

 

Safety at Sea
Every year, sailors around the world pay the ultimate price because of the unpredictable nature of the rough seas, but Norwegian technology helps to reduce the risks. Taking advantage of advanced remote control systems to reduce the amount of dangerous manual labour on the deck, Rolls-Royce has developed something it considers a small revolution. Previously, seamen would have to go into hazardous areas on an offshore vessel, but the future is safer.

 

“We have developed a safer deck crane system with special lifting arms to work together with winches and other moving equipment to and from any point on the deck, as well as reach over the side and the stern,” explains Arne Tande, vice president of offshore deck machinery for Rolls-Royce.

 

Proper winch systems are vital for security purposes. “Today the winch systems produced (by Rolls-Royce) have practically become an industry standard for offshore, merchant, fishing and naval applications,” says Tande.

 

Companies like Brude Safety have also been synonymous with reducing the risk in hazardous waters. It offers complete packages of safety equipment from quality producers. “From the safety plan of the ship or installation we work out comprehensive solutions for the overall rescue and safety equipment onboard,” says Brude marketing manager Lauritz Skeide. “Examples could include marine evacuation systems, rescue boats and davits, fire-fighting systems, survival equipment, nautical equipment and other ship equipment,” he says.

 

Dynamic Positioning
Sometimes mooring is not feasible because of deep waters, and then dynamic positioning (DP) is the name of the game in order to keep a ship in a constant position or to keep the position over a moving object in rough seas using the ship’s own propellers and thrusters.

 

With close to a 70 percent market share in the DP market, Kongsberg is a world leader in developing such systems. To keep its position, it has to be on the forefront of innovation and satisfy the industry with advanced technology.

 

Kongsberg Maritime marketing manager Roy Larsen is especially satisfied with the company’s K-Pos Dynamic Positioning Controller, released in 2006. “Our new Dynamic Positioning Controller is smarter, simpler and safer, providing users with more operational reliability and less cost of ownership,” he says. “Our technology is being implemented across a wide range of key shipboard systems, providing a real difference in operation.”

 

However, simply supplying DP systems is not enough for Kongsberg. It wants to supply the industry with complete DP, automation and navigation packages in order to solve advanced challenges.

 

“Our equipment here really runs the gamut. By integrating the various control systems such as automation and process control, dynamic positioning, navigation and hydro-acoustic products into a single process, we can to a greater extent tailor-make overall solutions,” says Larsen.

 

Supplying a very wide range of ship technology, design and ship’s gear, British-owned Rolls-Royce, with its maritime headquarters and competence in Norway’s northwestern Møre coast, also finds dynamic positioning of interest. Rolls-Royce Marine is a global leader in the full range of ship’s gear, and therefore it is natural for the company to expand its markets.

 

“It is logical for us to supply DP when we supply so many other equipment areas onboard, and we have detailed knowledge of most of the subsystems included in a DP operation,” says Rolls-Royce Marine department manager Gunnar Nyland.

 

Kongsberg Maritime dynamic positioning systems keep vessels within specified position and heading limits, and are designed to minimize fuel consumption and wear and tear on the propulsion equipment.
© Kongsberg Maritime

 

Azimuth Thrusters
For DP systems to work properly in very rough seas, precision and raw power are needed to keep a ship in the desired position – attributes Rolls-Royce’s azimuth thrusters have in spades.

 

Azimuth thrusters enable the propeller to rotate 360 degrees around a vertical axis so that the thrusters unit can perform both the propulsion and steering duties, and Rolls-Royce is one of the world’s leading producers of these.

 

Whereas most azimuth thrusters that Rolls-Royce delivers for DP and low-speed manoeuvring systems are so-called pushing thrusters with the propeller located downstream of the gearhouse and vertical leg, Azipull is a pulling thruster with the propeller located upstream of the gearhouse.

 

Leif Vartdal of Rolls-Royce Marine’s development division is one of the leaders behind the development of the Azipull azimuth thruster, and he is very pleased with the thruster’s increasing market shares for different vessel types all over the world.

 

“A unique feature about this thruster compared to similar azimuth propulsion systems is that it can be fitted with both controllable and fixed-pitch propellers.” Vartdal explains. This makes the Azipull very flexible with regard to the machinery systems it can be combined with.

 

“Because the water flows more uniformly into the propeller, the Azipull can be used for higher speed and provide higher efficiency compared to the pushing thrusters,” he says, adding that the Azipull system has demonstrated a fuel cost saving of about 16% in an instance in which an Azipull arrangement was retrofitted to a vessel that originally was equipped with ordinary azimuth thrusters.

 

The clean propeller inflow is not only beneficial for propulsion efficiency – it is also good for reducing propeller-induced noise and vibration. “This is important for comfort, especially on cruise ships,” he says.

 

The prototype of the Azipull was developed for a fast car/passenger ferry, but Rolls-Royce has delivered and on order around 150 Azipull systems for ships worldwide in three years, including offshore vessels, tankers, naval support and cruise/passenger ships.

 

Kongsberg Maritime and Rolls-Royce dynamic positioning systems help modern vessels operate in precise and constant positions in extreme conditions.
© Kongsberg Maritime

 

Maritime Arctic Competence
Due to the special conditions characterizing the Arctic environment, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association (NSA) and the Norwegian Maritime Forum North have emphasized awareness of the challenges of operating in this area. As the host of the northernmost university in the world (69° N latitude), it was natural that Tromsø and the city’s Tromsø University College was given the lead role in the Maritime Arctic Competence (MAC) programme, which got underway in the fall of 2006.

 

“Through the education of personnel, we want to contribute to the safe operation of ships and offshore installation in the Arctic areas,” says University College programme dean Hans Petter Kvaal, adding that many of the lectures will take place in English in order to facilitate international students.

 

Northern Norway and the surrounding waters have seen a dramatic increase in maritime activity over the last few years, and operative and administrative shipping personnel need to be aware of the specific concerns facing shipping in the extreme north. “Students joining this programme have broad experience in the operative and administrative branches of Norwegian shipping, but we will also depend on comprehensive academic competence,” says Kvaal.

 

Therefore MAC has support from the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, research foundation SINTEF, the University of Tromsø, Det Norske Veritas and the Norwegian Coast Guard to mention a few institutions.

 

Because of the broad expertise of the students joining the course, Kvaal believes MAC will be a unique centre of expertise contributing to knowledge exchange between the industry and academia. “Our challenge is to coordinate the experience coming from all of the different companies, research and education institutions as well as public administration, but I am confident that this will be an important centre of Arctic competence,” Kvaal says.

 

Surveillance in Arctic Surroundings
Manoeuvring technologically complicated vessels in rough and cold waters, captains need to be constantly updated of potential dangers to their ships, such as icebergs, other ships and offshore installations adrift.

 

The Norwegian company Kongsberg Norcontrol IT is one of the world’s leading companies in Vessel Traffic Management and Information Systems (VTMIS), Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) and Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). VTS systems utilize radar, closed-circuit television, VHF radiotelephony and AIS to make shipping as secure as possible.

 

In January 2007 a new VTMIS will be delivered to the Norwegian Coastal Administration, and will be located in Vardø. “One of the main tasks for the new VTMIS in Vardø, which is most likely also the northernmost VTMIS in the world, will be to keep real-time track of the numerous tankers which transport oil from the Russian fields along the sensitive coast of Norway,” says Kongsberg Norcontrol IT marketing manager Hilde P. Aarseth Krøgenes.

 

“In the event of an oil spill, we have technology in the Kongsberg Group which can help identify the ship responsible through satellite images and AIS. There are systems to predict and monitor the development of the spill, and our systems can be used for coordinating resources in connection with an oil spill and to keep other ships out of the operations area,” she says.

 

With increasing traffic in the Barents and Norwegian Seas, international ships not prepared for rough Norwegian conditions can be an environmental hazard for a fragile Arctic environment, and therefore surveillance and early warning systems are vital.

 

In the Hibernia petroleum field located in the ice-cold and rough North Atlantic Ocean, approximately 315 kilometres southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, the oil industry takes advantage of Norcontrol’s systems in order to increase security. “Our systems can also detect icebergs and warn about collision threats. At the Hibernia field our customer uses these systems to protect their installations,” Aarseth Krøgenes says.

 

“Barents Onscreen”
Surveillance of the Arctic areas is also important for the industry players, research institutions and the NSA. Therefore, the project Barents på skjerm (“Barents Onscreen”) is important for the Arctic strategy for the Norwegian government. The goal of the project is to establish operational surveillance systems processing information through a digital service about such diverse aspects as ice, oil pollution, algae, shipping lanes and harbours. Safety in the north is very important for Norway, and is an issue that the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, has taken an active role in promoting.

 

“Barents Onscreen is an interesting concept and may become a tool in the surveillance of the High North and in promoting secure and sustainable shipping in the Arctic areas,” says Gahr Støre.

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