SPECIAL REPORT: NEXT GENERATION OFFSHORE COMBINATION BARGES
Upgrades not only improve the quality of accommodation and communal facilities: they can also be the time to upgrade operating systems and instigate proper scheduled maintenance planning to minimise the likelihood of failure
improvement job conducted on station and while the platform continues with its usual work. Again, floatels can fulfil this role. Additional living quarters (ALQs) are installed when a larger workforce is required with a long term increase in a platform’s work.
A Range of Accommodation Delivery Systems Accommodation provision can be delivered through a variety of solutions with similar characteristics as most structures used around offshore installations. The Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) tells us that “The offshore oil industry is the main market for accommodation vessels or floatels and these applications represent their ‘state of the art’. Many projects have been developed in recent years, with new concepts and innovative vessels and systems promising to improve the living conditions of seafarers working in the offshore industry.”17 Floatels can be structures on semi-submersible barges (powered and non-propelled) for more permanent applications while for some jobs, large purpose built floatel ships can provide accommodation and even act as platforms for other functions such as diving. Smaller floatel ships (sometimes purpose built, sometimes converted from other types of vessel such as ferries and offshore support vessels) are often used to provide shorter term, more flexible accommodation such as might be relevant during construction, refurbishment or upgrade programmes. There are even jackup barges fitted to provide accommodation and an operating base for servicing offshore structures such as wind turbines. These are usually converted from former drilling rigs. Also, a number of older accommodation units are being converted and upgraded to Floatel standards such as Chevalier Floatels recently purchased accommodation barge ‘Sans Vitesse’ which will be upgraded to today’s high standard before being redeployed. Upgrades not only improve the quality of accommodation and communal facilities: they can also be the time to upgrade operating systems and instigate proper scheduled maintenance planning to minimise the likelihood of failure in units that cost $millions
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to deploy and often more to replace on even a temporary basis.
A Growing Global Fleet According to RINA (see above for reference) the floatel fleet in 2011 stood at: •S emisubmersibles: 20 units in total, with average age of 25 years. •B arges: About 100 units in total of which about 45 have accommodation capacity exceeding 250. •J ack-ups: Between 20-30 units depending upon specification (many very old units). •S hips: only a few units are expected in the short term. However, newer units are on the drawing boards and in the construction yards and these will need to be able to support oil and gas discoveries in ever more remote and deep water environments. To operate in those environments and challenging conditions, the next generation of offshore accommodation units will be fitted with dynamic positioning (DP) systems, considered the best stabilising solution in waters more than 300m deep. Not only are the majority of units in production fitted with DP but also a number of older units and vessels are being retrofitted with DP during routine refurbishment programmes.
A Modular Alternative Another type of accommodation (more often but not exclusively used for projects and temporary changes in demand rather than long term operations) is modular units. These are usually configured within the dimensions for international (ISO) shipping containers in order to facilitate their transportation and on-site handling. The offshore market demands very high standards from accommodation units associated with its ‘cities on the sea’ plus they also look for longevity and low maintenance outlays in challenging locations; but none of this should compromise the critical safety requirements for offshore service. And, given the changing nature of offshore energy production and the greater lengths to which operators have to go in order to source reserves, the quality of offshore accommodation will be an increasingly important employer differentiator in future years.
Defence Industry – Special Report on Next Generation Offshore Combination Barges