The offshore wind business is booming around the world, and the US is no exception. Operators are looking for cost-competitive multi-purpose service operation vessel (MPSOV) designs that not only meet their unique set of requirements, but which incorporate future-proof, eco-efficient technologies that will enhance both the performance and lifespan of their assets. Wärtsilä’s new Jones Act compliant design is ready to raise the bar.
The US East Coast has earned the tag ‘the Saudi Arabia of wind energy’ because generation perfectly matches peak consumption hours, reducing the need for storage. States along the coast are firmly committed to purchasing wind-generated energy. “With wind energy now such big business in the US, owners and operators are taking a more strategic long-term view in terms of investments,” says Blake Jackson, Sales Engineer, New Builds, Wärtsilä Marine Business. “The next generation of vessels has to check all the boxes in terms of IMO emissions regulations and flexible designs so that they can take advantage of technological advances as and when they become available,” he continues.
In addition to the need to comply with ever more stringent emissions regulations, a trend towards longer charter agreements is also driving this increased need for flexibility. “We’re seeing proposals for longer agreements, in the region of 15 years, so owners need to think ahead,” agrees George Franssen, Account Manager, New Builds, Wärtsilä Marine Business. “Financial considerations are another big factor,” Franssen points out, “because funding is far easier to obtain when the lenders have the security of knowing that the vessel has a profitable future beyond the end of the initial charter agreement.”
To serve the needs of the US wind power market, Wärtsilä, in close collaboration with key stakeholders – including charterers, shipyards, third-party suppliers and operators – has designed the world’s first US flagged, Jones Act compliant hybrid multi-purpose SOV. The designers also worked closely with classification societies including DNV and ABS, which both provided valuable input to the vessel design.
Wärtsilä’s OPTI Design methodology, a data-driven approach that focuses on the vessel’s total propulsive efficiency, will be applied to achieve the perfect balance between propeller, engine and hull. Rather than simply adding a propulsion system to a finished vessel design, with this approach the two are designed simultaneously. Wärtsilä’s world-leading team of experts takes a holistic approach, using their knowledge of computational fluid dynamics and other techniques to optimise the design of the vessel. “This means we can determine the effects of interaction between the propulsion unit and the vessel itself and use the information to deliver optimal efficiency, reduced costs and emissions and maximised performance,” explains Jackson.
Furthermore, the vessel design also benefits from Wärtsilä’s patented Low Loss Concept (LLC), an an energy-efficient and highly redundant power distribution system for electric propulsion applications.
The design integrates a range of Wärtsilä’s green systems and solutions, including shore-charging cold iron systems and a hybrid powertrain employing a containerised battery-on-board energy storage system. This allows for peak shaving, helping the engines to run at optimal load, thereby lowering both emissions and maintenance costs. The design also includes space for the integration of potential future powerplant and fuel technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells.
Two boat landings enhance the safety and efficiency of operations by providing dedicated safe-passage zones for technicians transferring to and from crew transfer vessels. Wärtsilä SmartDock, an automated system that enables consistent and repeatable docking to complement the capabilities of the crew, further increases safety, improves operational performance and reduces both fuel consumption and wear and tear. Operators can also benefit from Wärtsilä’s Smart Voyage Optimisation solutions to further improve fuel efficiency and safety.
To ensure safe operations in all sea conditions the multi-purpose SOV features Wärtsilä’s own dynamic positioning system that is fully integrated with the vessel’s propulsion system. This supports, for example, the vessel's walk to work system, where technicians access the working location via a centrally located 3D motion-compensated gangway integrated into the structure of the vessel.
The vessel’s double-decked cargo space provides ample room for technicians, lifting equipment, parts storage and palletised and containerised cargo. The latter is stored in the dedicated upper deck, which can be fitted with an optional container-handling system.
The 76-metre vessel can accommodate up to 60 crew and wind-farm technicians in 55 single and five state cabins. The need for comfort, physical distancing and flexibility in terms of the accommodation layout influenced the design significantly. “The layout reduces common areas to provide more space in individual cabins, which can be configured for double occupancy if needed. This is another way in which the design allows for greater flexibility should the vessel’s operational profile or application change in the future,” highlights Jackson. “The design also takes into consideration the need for crew members to maintain a safe distance from one another in logistics and workflows during situations such as the current COVID-19 pandemic,” he continues.
Once a vessel is in operation, Wärtsilä can provide ongoing support through its Lifecycle solutions, which maintain and optimise marine asset performance for their entire operational lifespan. This support can include, for example, guaranteed asset performance with mutually agreed performance targets based on specific business needs. “We can support owners of this vessel with a comprehensive operation and maintenance agreement to ensure worry-free operation and avoid unexpected surprises related to maintenance costs,” Franssen emphasises.
“This design brings together our unrivalled expertise in flexible fuel strategies, propulsion, automation, navigation, dynamic positioning and systems integration in a single fit-for-purpose and cost-effective package,” explains Franssen. “Thanks to a comprehensive in-depth design process and close co-operation with key stakeholders, we have developed a design that brings operators everything they need and nothing that they don’t.” Jackson concludes with the icing on the cake, “In addition to making it an efficient and futureproof multi-purpose SOV design, this leaner approach also enables the vessel to be built for a considerably lower cost than similar existing designs without compromising on capabilities or performance.”