Lifting in the New Offshore Environment – Tools, Training and Technology

Mark Ford, Marine & Quality Manager at the International Marine Contractors Association, looks forward to this year’s IMCA Lifting and Rigging Technical Seminar.

Plans are well underway for the next annual IMCA Lifting and Rigging Seminar. The long-standing series, which began in 2012, has become the must-attend industry event for anyone working in offshore lifting and rigging.

‘Lift Planning in the New Offshore Environment: Tools, Training and Technology’ builds on the success of last year’s Seminar which attracted more than 120 delegates from across Europe, Africa, and North and South America.

Mark Ford addresses the 2022 Lifting and Rigging Seminar

Many have already registered for the 2023 event, which takes place on 26 October at the Steigenberger Airport Hotel at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. This year we will – once again – bring the industry together to find solutions to the lifting and rigging challenges we collectively face.

Building on Strong Foundations

In the first five years of our Seminars, between 2012 and 2017, the focus was on high-value offshore ropes, providing an excellent platform for subsea contractors to directly discuss issues and concerns with suppliers.

Suppliers were not only able to share innovations with an audience of subject-matter experts with significant offshore experience, but also with academia. This led to a series of engaging technical forums and a win/win situation for both the audience and speakers.

A Toolbox Talk previewing the day’s work plan. Photo courtesy of Cadeler

Over the years, we have seen significant changes to the approach taken to the care and maintenance of high value ropes. This includes preparing for high performance fibre rope operations.

In 2018, IMCA returned to offshore cranes and looked wider at the full lifting systems used offshore. The workshops within the 2018 seminar were used to identify industry needs and hot topics. From this we identified the training of personnel, offshore lift planning, digitalisation of offshore cranes and general crane technology requirements as the drivers of IMCA’s Lifting and Rigging Committee work programme.

Attention turned to training and personnel competence in 2019; and in 2020, thanks to the pandemic, we ran a well-attended webinar covering ‘Crane Systems and Offshore Lifting’.

IMCA will continue to hold highly relevant and topical Lifting and Rigging Seminars each year; and its Lifting & Rigging Committee will continue to expand its work programme to keep in step with all that is happening in the rapidly expanding global offshore lifting sector.

Looking Back at the 2022 Seminar

Using Slido (A tool to engage meeting participants in real time with live polls, Q&A, quizzes and word clouds) in our first interactive session we were able to gauge the audience’s opinion regarding the top three technical and operational issues they face.

Top technical and operational issues facing attendees at IMCA’s Lifting & Rigging Seminar 2022 (multiple choice)

Unsurprisingly, increasing component size topped the list, closely followed by lift planning and forecasting; increasing lift heights; lift tooling designs/testing; and competent lift planners/operators.

Earlier in the morning, Laura Lombardi of Usha Martin Italia, the Seminar Chair who also chairs IMCA’s Lifting and Rigging Management Committee (LRMC), had asked delegates to explain their interest in being with us – lift planning was in second spot behind offshore operations.

Our 2022 Seminar certainly provided food for thought both on the day and, post-event, for our LRMC, and their ongoing work programme. It also shared a new lifting mantra – “Adopt, Adapt and Improve” taken by Seaway7’s Arnoud Bosch from a 1927 quote by HRH Edward Prince of Wales.

Our now retired Chief Executive, Allen Leatt, opened the seminar explaining lifting and rigging’s centrality to everything in offshore construction and that lifting in offshore wind “has a number of technical challenges”.

Statistics abounded during the day confirming the physical enormity of the challenges – Siemens Gamesa spoke of 19,747 lifts in 2022 (for 223 turbines) with 110,000 lifts expected by 2030 (for 1,500). Seaway7 emphasised the size and weight of the near future XXL monopiles soon requiring a 2,500-3,000+ tonne lift of a roughly 125-metre-long object, with a 10-11 metre diameter, lifting at heights in excess of 120 metres.

Alberto Pegurri of Remazel illustrated a slightly smaller version of these XXL giants, but still taller than a jumbo jet is long. Jack Spaan of Boskalis highlighted that the capacity of WTGs was increasing from 8-12MW at the time of the seminar and increasing with the next generation units to 12-15+MW, explaining that the new XXL monopiles were over 100m in length, 13m in diameter at a weight of 3,500t. Indeed, many WTG jackets that are being manufactured and installed now, are similar to the oil and gas structures of past years.

During the 2022 Seminar, Heerema’s Vincent Shaw shared their solution to the challenges of blade installation for floating wind installations – lifitng a full Rotor Nacelle Assembly (RNA) in one lift. Photo courtesy of Heerema.

Recently at Nor-Shipping, Ward Gommeren, senior strategic commercial director of GE Renewable Energy – one of the world’s three biggest turbine makers – was reported as saying that the company had produced a 10MW turbine that it was demonstrating at Dogger Bank in the North Sea and Vineyard, the first commercial US offshore wind farm.

“We thought we had some time being the biggest in the market at 10MW, but we have been very quickly overrun and are hearing that we are racing up to the 20’s,” he said.

“We’ve said that’s too far, so we’re now looking in the 17-18MW range, but we need to have a bit more stability in the market and we need to earn back the money we’ve invested in developing these turbines. The last 12-18 months have been very, very limited. We need to make sure we get certainty for the wind farms. We need to have time to increase the production capacity.”

In Heerema’s process, blades were assembled on the vessel using a support tower and a Guided Root End Positioning (GREP) tool shown here. Photo courtesy of Heerema

GE, Vestas and Siemens-Gamesa have all lost millions of dollars in turbine manufacture, and Gommeren admitted, “We’ve been sitting around the table with a lot of partners and concluded that we need to come to a direction of standardisation.”

Offshore Wind is facing significant challenges, as well as huge expectations from governments around the world to support the transition to Net Zero. Increasing standardisation is one way we will be able to increase efficiency in delivery and address cost. However, we will also need to address broader risk and cost challenges to this market.

With this in mind, IMCA has ramped up activity to support the industry in this area since the Lifting & Rigging Seminar in 2022, publishing a series of contracting principles and leading an industry PR campaign for fairer and more sustainable contracts across the entire supply chain.

Our new Chief Executive, Iain Grainger, previously our Head of Energy Transition, spoke during June at two major industry events: “We published our contracting principles at the start of the year and have been working hard behind the scenes to bring the industry together and move the agenda forward.”

Session underway during the 2022 Lifting and Rigging Seminar

“If the huge ambitions for offshore wind are to be realised, we will need to see the emergence of a more sustainable approach to contracting which ensures a fairer distribution of risk along the supply chain,” he explained.

To my mind, the challenging market conditions for offshore wind – whether on contractual aspects or on standardisation – will have knock-on effects on investment, design, and delivery for months to come. The impacts of this uncertainty will no doubt feature heavily in discussions at this year’s Lifting and Rigging Seminar.

Looking Forward to This Year

This October we will once again follow a mix of presentations, panel discussions, delegate workshops, and plenty of time set aside for all-important networking with peers. Although not completely confirmed at the time of writing, I can share some of our Seminar highlights so far.

We start the day with a reminder of the importance of planning a lift, focusing on IMCA’s recommended best-practice, IMCA LR 006 – Guidelines for Lifting Operations.

We will then move into a session focusing on operators’ experiences of lift planning. Russell Craig (TechnipFMC) explores ‘How routine is routine? Thoughts and considerations for a lift plan process.’ Jeroen Regelink (Seaway7) will present on the ‘Seaway7 operation simulator – development and crew training.’ Boskalis will offer an in-depth look at their approaches to lift planning.

A session on operational technology follows featuring motion compensation, crane utilisation, rope, monitoring/maintenance. Wesley de Groot (TWD) explores ‘Large-scale floating feeder solutions for WTG components.’ Cristiano Bonetti (VisionTek), shares Bridon-Bekaert’s high-speed camera solution that conforms to ISO. Sondre Gonsholt (Cranemaster) introduces ‘Shock absorption for pile run protection.’

Our Supplier Sessions will include Alberto Pegum (Remazel) speaking on their ‘Monopile lifting upending tool’ and a useful look at ‘Weather Prediction in Offshore Construction’ by Anne Imola (Vaisala). This will be followed by a supplier panel discussion.

The final session of the day will focus on academia. An important session at our seminar every year, it provides academics such as Apostolos Tsouvalas, Assistant Professor Offshore Engineering at TU Delft, to explore potential solutions with practitioners.

This year Apostolos will be considering ‘Environmental Vibrations and Noise Emissions from Offshore Pile Installation’ and we are planning for other academics join this part of the programme.

Details of the full programme can be found at https://www.imca-int.com/calendar/imca-lifting-rigging-seminar-2023/. This will be updated regularly with Seminar additions as and when they are confirmed.

IMCA represents the vast majority of offshore marine contractors and the associated supply chain in the world, with members from over 65 countries. Its mission is to improve performance in the marine contracting industry It publishes an extensive technical library of guidance documents (written by the industry for the industry) on operational good practice, safety promotional materials, timely information notes and issues safety flashes.

Delegates at the 2022 LIfting and Rigging Seminar

 

 

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