Windfarm access vessels: Are catamarans the right solution?

A conference at Seawork 2015 considered if catamarans are the best solution as windfarm access vessels
A conference at Seawork 2015 considered if catamarans are the best solution as windfarm access vessels

The three day conference running alongside Seawork 2015 provided a range of panel discussions including ‘Windfarm access vessels: are Catamarans the right solution?’

The panel discussion, located on board ‘Ocean Scene’ which was moored alongside the quay, delivered a lively debate that was relevant regarding hull designs for all professional sectors. Panellists looked at the latest cat designs and presented the merits of hull forms ranging from Very Slender Vessels (VSVs) to Foil Assisted Multihulls. The discussion addressed the pros and cons of multihull versus monohull boats for the purposes of getting personnel out to offshore wind farms, either directly or using the mothership / daughter craft approach.

The discussion was chaired by John Haynes of Shock Mitigation who opened by saying, “There is no doubt that large catamarans in the 18-24m range are currently the vessel of choice for the windfarm support sector. As the industry moves further offshore it is a good time to take a step back and see what other solutions could be used in other parts of the world. In the North Sea areas such as the Dogger Bank, which is over 125km from land, present a very different operational scenario for building and maintaining wind farms.”

The panellists representing catamaran boat builders for this session were Andy White from CTruk and Andy Page of Alicat Design & South Boats IOW. To set the scene for debate Andy White provided an incisive overview of how he has seen the market develop, including a graphical summary from 4C Offshore of hull types built to date. The current data shows that catamarans have the lion’s share of this market.

Stephen Beadsmore from the Wave Access Project gave the background to a prototype VSV that has been built in Cumbria. At short notice Ulf Tudem of Effect Ships International stepped in to highlight the innovative technology behind Air Supported Vessels and their suitability for offshore personnel transport. Guy Whitaker from Missionkraft showed how the catamaran hull can be adapted with hydrofoils. Higher operating speeds, reduced fuel costs and improved sea keeping qualities were cited as benefits for considering Very Slender Vessels, Air Supported Vessels and Foil Assisted Multihulls.

The session covered a lot of points in a short space of time. John Haynes thanked all of the panellists saying, ‘It is important to understand how the UK and North Sea Windfarm access vessels have rapidly evolved in not much over a decade. This was designed to be a fast moving session that cut to the meat of the question regarding catamarans. The objective was to raise challenging questions and consider that the US or other countries around the world may select different designs of Windfarm access vessels to service their wind farms.’

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