Dutch duo on the move

The Dutch know a thing or two about lifting, transporting and installing offshore structures having for many years been in the vanguard of such activities around the world. Meg Chesshyre catches up with two leading exponents of the heavy lift art, Heerema Marine Contractors and Seaway Heavy Lifting, both of them looking to new vessels to expand their market horizons.

HMC's new monohull DCV Aegir taking shape in Korea.

Heerema Marine Contractors' newbuild deepwater construction vessel Aegir is scheduled to sail from Korea to Europe at the end of this year preparatory for the installation of its deepwater pipelay equipment. It should be ready to go into service in the second half of 2013.

HMC sees major growth ahead in the global offshore market, especially in the ultra-deepwater segment where market intelligence indicates there could be almost 100% growth in a period of five years. ‘And that has been a reason for us to launch HMC's biggest investment programme to date in capabilities and resources,' says Roddy Lafontaine, the company's VP commercial & business development, South America, Africa and Middle East.

Roddy Lafontaine‘Just to put a number out there, in a period of four to five years we will invest more than $1.5 billion in this company.' Aegir is one of the investments targeting deepwater projects, but HMC is also upgrading the SSCV Thialf, investing in new barges, anchor handlers and the largest ever hydraulic underwater hammer.

Aegir will be fully commissioned, complete with its 4000t crane, and fully certified as a crane vessel, when it leaves the DSME yard in Korea. In Rotterdam, HMC will add and commission the deepwater pipelay mission equipment – the J-lay tower and reel laying spread – following which the new vessel will undergo extensive trials as a deepwater construction vessel (DCV) in 2Q 2013.

The giant new Menck underwater hammer will be deployed for the first time at BP Clair Ridge.With upcoming offshore projects tending more and more to be located in remote places, and spread around the world rather than concentrated in a certain region, HMC opted for a monohull with the capability to execute complex deepwater infrastructure and pipeline projects in ultra-deepwater, and also with sufficient lifting capacity to execute installation of fixed platforms in relatively shallow water. ‘The optimised monohull design will facilitate high transit speeds, which will benefit projects with reduced mobilisation cost and time and more infield availability,' explains Lafontaine.

‘Aegir's built-in capability to reel lay infield flowlines, next to its core capability to J-lay heavy pipelines, will reduce offshore cost and time for smaller diameter pipelines/tie-backs and create unequalled synergy potential for complex field layouts,' he adds.

The SSVS Thialf nears the end of its upgrading and refurbishment programme in Veroline.It is this additional reeling capability that will be used on the vessel's first job for Anadarko in the Lucius field in the Gulf of Mexico. Aegir's scope covers the installation of the subsea manifolds, production flowlines, production risers, and export risers in late-2013. According to Lafontaine, a unique feature of DCV Aegir will be the offshore loading of reels (two x 2000t capacity). ‘This means that a lot of work – all the pipe pre-fabrication, the stalking and spooling – will be done onshore without the presence of the Aegir, again saving cost and time offshore,' he says.

Aegir is also already lined up for work on Inpex's Ichthys LNG project, main contractor McDermott Australia having awarded Heerema Marine Contractors Australia a major subcontract for the offshore transportation and installation of the infield flowlines, subsea structures and moorings. All pipeline production welding, both onshore and offshore, will be carried out by HMC subsidiary Pipeline Technique. The Ichthys logistics – which involve lowering over 100,000t of project materials to the seabed in water depths up to 275m – are of an unprecedented scale in HMC's subsea track record, enabling Aegir's heavylift, J-lay and reel lay capabilities to be used all in one project.

‘Apart from market growth and globalisation, the subsea projects are getting bigger and more complex,' observes Lafontaine. ‘From our point of view we naturally progressed our core offshore T&I [transport and installation] business to the market leader we are today. We moved and built our reputation in 50 years on the big, heavy, deep scope elements offshore. Now we are moving into more integrated projects – like Ichthys – where clients ask not only the offshore services but much more. For Ichthys we still do the offshore installation, which is of course our passion, and McDermott profiles the final design, procurement and all the required onshore fabrications. To make that successful you need best-in-class partners which operate as one integrated team.'

Artist's rendering of HMC's hybrid exchangeable riser tower (HERT) and its buoyancy tank design. The design basis was a genric West African development in 1700m of water.

In order to provide local in-house fabrication services, HMC has invested in a large yard in Angola – Porto Amboim – to support its deepwater activities. The yard was finished in early 2010 and has been used for multi-jointing, pipe prefabrication, and marshalling of subsea structures for BP¡¦s initial PSVM (Plutao, Saturno, Venus and Marte) development in block 31. Today HMC is also setting up a marshalling/spooling yard in Indonesia.

To further cope with complexity, especially in congested field environments, a new technological solution for bundled risers has been developed by HMC together with Total and Intecsea. Designated the hybrid exchangeable riser tower (HERT), this system can accommodate a large number of bundled risers in deepwater. It has similar functionality to existing onshore fabricated hybrid riser towers, but has a more open structure and is assembled/ installed in its entirety offshore.

An evaluation qualification programme has been run to ensure the concept is available for application on future deepwater developments. Lafontaine says the design is now being brought to the market. Papers are being given to industry and it is being shown to clients.

"Technically (as well as commercially) this solution is qualified not only feasible but also competitive," he notes. The design basis was a generic West African development in 1700m of water. The design was geared to the Balder and was verified with the Aegir.

"One of the advantages is that it is an open tower, which operators love because it is easy to maintain, easy to exchange and easy to inspect. From a constructability point of view it also gives a lot of flexibility on where the individual components can be fabricated onshore, in low cost countries, or to provide local content."

The new look, T shape H-851 barge will make its floatover debut installing Australia's 24,000t North Rankin B deck.

Other investment decisions HMC has made to further improve its offshore services are:






  • The company's giant semisubmersible Thialf is currently in dock in Verolme for crane upgrade and hull maintenance, and should be available for work in the North Sea again from late April. The SSCVs Balder and Hermod will also undergo major life time extension programmes.
  • Modification of the company's giant H-851 barge into its new T-shape suitab completed late last year. Hermod is currently in Australia working for Woodside on the North West Shelf. Once the North Rankin B jacket has been installed, HMC will float over the 24,000t deck using the new-look H-851 for the first time (OE April 2011). Following its floatover debut on North Rankin B, the barge is already booked to undertake a second record-setting 42,000t floatover for ExxonMobil's Arkutun Dagi development, offshore Sakhalin, in 2013.
  • Two new cargo barges are under construction in China. The 590ft long H-591 and the 540ft H-542 will both also be available for floatover work, in addition to more conventional transport and launch operations.
  • Two new 180t bollard pull tugs are also on order in Spain for delivery in 2013.
  • HMC signed a contract with Menck for construction of the world's biggest and heaviest hydraulic underwater hammer. Designated the MHU-3500S and due for delivery in January 2013, the new 3500k hammer is expected to make its offshore debut driving piles through the ultra-hard soils of BP's Clair Ridge development.

In addition to these investments in offshore hardware, HMC is also investing in new office space in the Netherlands. Just before end-2011, it signed an agreement for the redevelopment of the company's former office building in Leiden and the new HQ should be completed in late 2014. ‘As outlined earlier, we are investing a lot in hardware, we're famous for doing that,' declares Lafontaine. ‘The reality is you cannot do that without investing in software, systems and people. We foresee a growth in people in the coming few years. The office next door is going to be built for around 1400 persons. We already have people in another building now and we think it's important that you have the people working together in one building.' The current work force in Leiden is a little under 1000. HMC envisages that number growing by 30% over the next few years. OE

*Aegir has been named after the Norse god of the sea, sometimes also referred to as a sea giant. Together with his wife, the sea goddess Ran, and their nine daughters, named for different types of waves, Aegir rules the waves.

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