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xxx 2011-05-02

OTC 2011: Ruling the waves: Maritime Lifting Safer and Quicker

OTC 2011: Ruling the waves: Maritime Lifting Safer and Quicker

Barge Master develops and produces motion-compensated platforms for offshore lifting operations: A most promising new type of working platform that can help solve the age-old problem

Compared to a jack-up barge the use of a standard crawler-crane placed on a standard barge is a lot cheaper. But until now the use of cranes on barges was very limited by both weather conditions and swell conditions. As soon as the significant wave height is over 0.3 meters you already have a problem and dangerous situations occur with a large swing of the tip of the crane-boom. But thanks to a new Dutch invention, the Barge Master, the safety and workability of crane-barges can be highly increased. The system was developed one and a half year ago by Barge Master and Bosch Rexroth and is now ready for marketing. A key-role in this will play Frans van Seumeren, the man who made Mammoet world-famous with the lifting of the Russian submarine Kursk. Van Seumeren took a significant share in the new-established company and took over the role as chairman of the Supervisory Board. The other shareholders are the founders and directors of the company, Martijn Koppert (37) and Jan-Paul van de Bos (38).

Model Testing

Barge Master by is an offspring of Temporary Works Design (TWD), a Dutch engineering firm specialised in design of temporary structures for the civil and

maritime construction industry. General manager Martijn Koppert, who is also director of Barge Master, started this firm in 2007 after a career of fifteen years at construction company BAM International and the maritime services supplier SMIT. In 2008 Koppert got the idea for the Barge Master. For the development of his idea he sought cooperation with Bosch Rexroth for the drive and control system and MARIN, the maritime research institute to determine the motion behaviour of standard flat top barges. Although Bosch Rexroth is absolute sure that the design works, the model will still be subjected to numerical testing by a computer simulation program. A 1:20 scale model will be built and tested in the towing tank basin of MARIN. The results are to be expected by the end of the year. Meanwhile, a dedicated sales program has been started and according to Koppert there are already a number of requests for quotation. The interest is coming from the offshore wind and salvage industry, heavy lift companies and other offshore construction firms. This is exactly the market Barge Master is targeting. In the coming months Barge Master will be presenting the scale model at various conferences and exhibitions in the offshore industry.

Workability

The crane-barge is in fact where it all started with in the offshore industry. For example, Heerema started his company with putting the first crawler crane on a barge in the Gulf of Mexico. But as Koppert explains the workability of a crane barge is very limited due to weather and swell conditions. Especially the swell (long waves) has a significant impact on the motions of the barge and crane resulting in situations whereby onboard personnel, equipment and installation parts are at risk.

Relatively small rotations of the barge (2-3 degrees) on which a crane is placed result in large movements (4 - 5 m) of the crane boom tip and therefore the hook/load.

These unwanted movements make safe working impossible and hence operations have to be ceased. The implications hereof for both project planning and costs are obvious. History learns that downtime of working with crane barges is high. Therefore the offshore industry prefers to work with jack-up barges. But deployment of jack-up barges comes with very high day-rates and mobilisation costs. So why not using a crane barge with between the barge and the crane a motion-compensating platform. That’s how the whole idea started. "We went with it to Bosch Rexroth and they immediately were very enthusiastic about it and wanted to help developing the basic of design,'' Koppert tells. They used standard flat top barges of 60 x 20 or 90 x 30 m with a standard crawler crane of a maximum lifting capacity of 400 or 600 t. With this input the concept study started in 2008.”

Motion Compensation

Early this year the calculations and simulations were finished and the results were very promising. According to the calculations the principle will work; up to a significant wave height of 1.50 m (which equals a maximimum waveheight of approximately 3 meter) 95% of the sea-induced motions will be compensated, in 6-12 seconds swell. To keep the crane (platform) from moving, six degrees of freedom (DoF) have to be compensated. Three DoFs are compensated by restraining two translations (surge and swell) and one rotation (yaw) of the barge by using traditional anchors or a dynamic positioning system. The remaining three degrees of freedom - one translation (heave) and two rotations (roll and pitch) – are compensated by the Barge Master, a platform driven by three hydraulic actuators. By measuring the heave, roll and pitch and controlling the actuators supporting the platform to produce counteractive motion, the platform is kept stationary relative to

the fixed world. With the vertical cylinders the roll, pitch and heave are compensated. “With this motion compensation system the platform can be held almost perfectly still,” Koppert claims.

Using the Barge Master provides increased safety during offshore lifting operations, increased workability, flexible solutions by using standard crawler cranes and standard barges and it offers a low-cost alternative compared to jack-up barges. Standard barges and cranes can be hired worldwide. Only a Barge Master needs to be mobilised to form a wave compensated crane barge.

Market Opportunities

When the conclusion could be made up that the system would work, the initiators requested subsidy from SenterNovem, the Dutch governmental institute for economic and technological development. They got financial support for further studies with Bosch Rexroth and MARIN on the motion of barges. At the same time the search for investors was started. The Dutch Rabobank supported with innovation credits and brought Koppert and Van den Bos in contact with Frans van Seumeren who sold in 75% of the Mammoet Group to investor SHV in 2006. Since then Van Seumeren invested in a shipping company (RollDock) and he bought a football club (FC Utrecht). "He is very well known with lifting operations and directly saw the market and opportunities for the barge master,” Koppert emphasises. Frans van Seumeren became shareholder and chairman of the supervisory board.

"Barge Master develops and produces motion-compensated platforms for offshore lifting operations. This company can help solve the age-old problem of sea-induced motions during offshore installation work. I have great faith in this company as it allows for two crucial aspects of offshore work: increased shipboard safety and a larger weather window for lifting operations,” Van Seumeren stated when taking up his position as major shareholder.

Low Operational Cost

The coming months will be used for extra testing. Koppert: We know that the system will work, so the test results we expect to have by the end of the year will be just an extra sales tool. With Bosch Rexroth we worked out the design based on standard barges and standard crawler cranes of up to 600 t. “But if a potential client wants to be able to work with cranes of up to 800 or 1000 t we can look into that too,” Koppert says.

Custom-built Barge Masters can be developed and built according to client-specific requirements. Basically any crane on a vessel can be mounted onto a Barge Master. Foundation and ship interfaces will be modified where necessary. The Barge Master will be offered for sale or for rent worldwide. The whole construction and accessories will be able to be transported in ten to fifteen container units. All the equipment and material fit within container dimensions. For purchasing one has to think of about EUR 5 - 10 million. With that relatively small investment the workability of crane barges will be highly increased. Koppert: “The expected operational costs will be significant lower than compared with working with traditional jack-up barges. The main advantages are that you have a much higher payload with the barge, you are

not dependant of soil conditions and water depths as is with jack-up barges.”

Capturing the essence of this innovative project Koppert ends with a bright smile: “The Barge Master caters for a genuine customer need, its innovative nature is recognised by the relevant parties and we have partnered with the technology leaders in their respective fields to fulfil its potential: we look forward to beating customer expectations with the first operational Barge Master late 2011.“

Bosch Rexroth AG is one of the world’s leading specialists in the field of drive and control technologies. Under the brand name of Rexroth the company supplies more than 500,000 customers with tailored solutions for driving, controlling and moving. Bosch Rexroth is a partner for industrial applications and factory automation, mobile applications and renewable energy.

As The Drive & Control Company, Bosch Rexroth develops, produces and sells components and systems in more than 80 countries. In 2009 Bosch Rexroth, part of the Bosch Group, achieved sales of around $5.7 billion (4.1 billion Euro) with 34,200 employees.

For more information please visit: www.boschrexroth-us.com .

 

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Kevin Gingerich
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