Heavy lifter goes for growth

With a number of new vessels in the works and others just starting to make their presence felt in the market, Jumbo Offshore's recent announcement that it will build a new-generation K-Class heavylift vessel suggests there's still plenty of competitive juice in the offshore installation, construction and transportation sector going forward. David Morgan visits Jumbo's Rotterdam HQ to check out the company's hopes and plans. 

Jumbo has been a name in the shipping business for over 40 years but is still a relative newcomer to the offshore installation and construction sector. Nonetheless it has in recent years established some serious offshore credentials through its work on high profile developments such as Kikeh offshore Malaysia, Cascade/Chinook in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico and North Amethyst off eastern Canada. And the measure of the company's future intentions can be gauged from this summer's announcement that it is building another newbuild capable of combining – in the one vessel – a variety of heavy lift, transport and offshore installation tasks.

The Rotterdam-based company's first move into this sector came eight years ago with the establishment of Jumbo Offshore, and the business really kicked off a couple of years later with the conversion of theJumbo Javelin, a heavy lift shipping vessel reconfigured to DP2 mode. Today the Jumbo fleet boasts four of these distinctive 144m long, dual-crane J Class vessels in service, two of them – Jumbo Javelin and Fairplayer – equipped with DP2 systems and marketed for offshore work.

The new vessel, the company's 13th, is under construction at the Brodosplit yard in Croatia. Bigger and stronger than its sister vessels – with its dual cranes capable of tandem lifts up to 2200t, 400t more thanJumbo Javelin and Fairplayer – the newbuild will also be prepared for future DP2 installation assignments offshore. Ice-classed and expected to be operational in 2013, it will have a length of 152.60m and beam of 27.40m, with twin 1100t (at 27.50m outreach) mast cranes.

‘Our ships are seldom idle, switching with relative ease from shipping to offshore mode and vice versa,' says Brian Boutkan, Jumbo Offshore's EMEA business development manager. ‘And the J Class vessels' 16-17 knot transit speeds are quite high for an offshore installation vessel, so that makes us very flexible. We can mobilize a vessel from one side of the world to the other even for relatively small projects.'

Deepwater breakthrough

Working alongside the two flagship construction vessels of long-time shipping customer Technip,Fairplayer's involvement in the challenging 2008 installation of five free-standing hybrid risers for Petrobras America's Cascade/ Chinook development did Jumbo's reputation no harm at all. ‘Yes, it looks very good on the company CV,' agrees Boutkan. ‘Many people still saw us as a shipping company, but that job opened a lot of eyes in the market, showing to good effect the real capacity and capabilities of our vessels.'

Henk de Boo van Uijen, Jumbo's offshore engineering manager, points out that Cascade/Chinook not only made good use of Fairplayer's transportation capacity – loading the project's five 350t, 38m-long buoyancy cans from Technip's Pori yard in Finland and delivering them to location – but also its dual crane capability in overboarding and lowering the buoys to 200m depth. He recalls: ‘The Deep Blue deployed the riser in its entirety, then the Fairplayer moved in a for a wet handshake, lifting the 2300m riser with its fore crane and placing it in a hang-off structure for connection to the buoyancy cans. The whole assembly – at 760t, quite a significant weight! – was then overboarded and lowered safely through the splash zone to 200m, in the process breaking our previous offshore lift record of 700t. ROVs from Technip's Deep Pioneer then made the connection between the riser and its foundation in the seabed at 2500m water depth.

‘The three vessels were working in very close proximity, which presented operational challenges,' he adds. ‘There are also very specific challenges when you work in that kind of water depth with a 2km long pipe underneath you – you can't sail and travel much anymore!'

Installation of subsea structures for North Amethyst in 120m of water off eastern Canada.

Jumbo certainly didn't go unprepared for the job. While mobilising Fairplayer in Rotterdam, the company installed in the hold its innovative Deepwater Deployment System (DDS), which enables heavy structures to be lifted from the deck and placed on the seabed without the need for subsea transfer. Consisting of a traction which and a storage winch with 14km wire rope capacity, the DDS feeds the main hoist blocks of the vessel's two 900t Huisman mast cranes. For Cascade/ Chinook, the cranes were re-reeved to a 14 falls configuration to work in up to 250m of water with an 800t hook load. According to Jumbo, the system's capacity reduces with water depth along roughly the following lines: 1000t in 1000m, 600t in 1700m and 200t in 3000m.

Fairplayer also supported Technip in the installation of two 150t module support frames plus other subsea structures in 120m of water for the North Amethyst tieback to the White Rose oilfield offshore Newfoundland in 2009.

Offshore alternatives

Sister vessel Jumbo Javelin – along with Fairplayer on occasion – is increasingly to be found at work these days in the European renewable energy sector. Having started out in business shipping equipment from point A to point B, then slowly evolved into a company combining transportation from point A with installation work first in sheltered offshore sites and later in challenging deepwater locations, Jumbo sees the renewables sector as a natural port of call for its vessels and expertise.

On the tidal energy front, Fairplayer was despatched last year to the Orkney Islands test site of the European Marine Energy Centre (Emec) for a successful three-day test campaign aimed at demonstrating its installation capabilities in high tidal current velocities and its ability to make optimal used of available tidal windows.

In the burgeoning North Sea wind farm sector, Jumbo Javelin, working for client Fluor, last year completed the installation of 131 transition pieces (TP) for the Greater Gabbard development off the UK's southeast coast. This job, which also included leveling and grouting operations and saw for the first time a free floating vessel on DP handling both the transportation and installation of TPs, provided Jumbo with a handy opportunity to showcase its versatility. Outfitted with job-specific items such as temporary living quarters (from Ferguson), a Densit grout plant and an Ampelmann motioncompensated access system, Jumbo Javelin was able to stow nine 280t TPs vertically in its hold for each trip from Flushing to location and achieved an impressive overall average installation rate of more than one TP per day.

The company recently landed another major wind farm order, this time offshore Denmark for MT Højgaard and again employing the Jumbo ‘all-in-one' installation method. From April next year, one of the company's DP2 vessels will start installing 111 TPs on pre-installed monopiles for Dong's Anholt development in 15-20m of water near Anholt Island in the Kattegat. Again the plan is to load nine TPs – each weighing around 200t, 17m tall and 5.5m in diameter – at a time. As well as the grout plant and access bridge, the vessel will also be equipped with a purposebuilt lifting beam and two passive lifting compensators of in-house design. The company prides itself on doing most of its own design work, trying to incorporate the key learnings from earlier offshore campaigns in the configuration of each new addition to the fleet.

Brian Boutkan, whose business development remit also embraces renewables, says: ‘Our primary market will remain the deepwater oil & gas, that's why we have invested in the DDS. But with our DP2 vessels, we believe we have a very flexible and efficient concept that offers superior workability – in up to 2.5m significant wave heights – and much faster transit speeds when compared with the new generation of jackup installation vessels coming on the market.

‘The wind market as I see it is learning to appreciate lump sum contracts and contractors with larger units that have a track record in offshore oil & gas installation work.'

With a large number of wind farm projects coming up that require pre-piling, Jumbo has an innovative pre-piling template concept in development that it believes would help deal with pile spacing, alignment and stability issues. For competitive reasons, Boutkan is reluctant to go into detail until one has actually been fabricated, but he does at least offer this prediction:

‘I think we have something different to what the industry has seen so far and we expect to gain some advantage from that. Our vessels are well suited to this kind of work, with the capacity to get a lot of piles to location in one go and carry all the associated equipment with them. Using this new template, we would envisage taking about a day to install a set of three or four piles, then sailing to the next location and deploying it again without having to return to port.'

Watch this space. Ed. OE

Jumbo Javelin set a hot pace transporting and installing 280t transition pieces for the UK's Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm. Inset: The vessel was outfitted with an Ampelmann motion-compensating bridge to provide the crew with safe access to the installed TP as well as guide the grout hoses.

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