What challenges have to be overcome in the maintenance of offshore wind platforms?

Robert Hubner: The goal is to have maintenance work done on a regular basis by technicians, and so the main challenge we face is to give these specialists as much time on the turbines as possible. Therefore, we design our vessels with speed in mind to reduce transit times, to be comfortable and to be safe by offering a stable platform for safe transfers. We also design our vessels to be fuel-efficient without compromising on performance, thereby lowering the operating costs for charterers and reducing the impact of our fleet on the environment. Finally, at Windcat we pride ourselves on operating vessels that keep bad weather days as low as possible, in comparison to other ships on the market.

What kind of cargo are Windcat’s boats designed to carry?

The vessels are designed to carry offshore personnel and various types of cargo to and from offshore assets, with all of the fleet being certified for the carriage of dangerous goods. The items carried can range from the technicians’ tools to larger items such as generators and containers. We can also accommodate skyclimber platforms for aerial work that we carry on specially designed cradles. Our new MK3.5 type of vessel is also designed for storage or carriage of two 10ft containers up to 10t. Our boats can and have been operated as emergency response or dive support vessels, and additionally support ROV inspections, drone inspections, pressure washing projects and hydrographic surveys.

What priority does Windcat Workboats place on crew safety in the design of its vessels?

Windcat Workboats is committed to the highest possible standards of operational safety. We are certified to the international safety management (ISM) code standard, along with being ISO 9001, 14001, OHSAS 18001 and Achilles-accredited. To maintain these standards, our QHSE team is closely involved with all daily operational aspects of the company and vessels, as well as ensuring that work is carried out in accordance with charterers’ own management and safety requirement. By collaborating with our clients, such as Ørsted, Eon, GE, MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, Siemens, Vattenfal, Wood Group, SSE, Centrica, and Senvion, we aim to continuously improve our systems to ensure the highest levels of quality and safety. Our compliance to charterers’ HSE requirements are checked by our own internal system of auditing, by customer audits and by an independent company.

Tell us about the patent Windcat has sought for its new windgrip. What advantages will it deliver for your crew transfer vessels?

The standard transfer systems used on crew transfer vessels uses the friction of the vessel’s fender on the boat landing to create a stable platform. The hull shape of the vessel, the fender used and the propulsion system of the vessel limit the wave height up to which this method can maintain the position on the boat landing. The Windgrip increases the friction of the fender by using constant tension winches. Force is applied right at the bow and is therefore highly effective in increasing the stability of the vessel on the turbine. By increasing the grip on the boat landing, Windgrip will also allow transfers in higher wave conditions than normally possible, and reduce the required power from the vessel’s propulsion during operation, reducing fuel costs, vessel wear and tear, and maintenance requirements.

What other innovations has Windcat integrated into the vessel design?

Windcat is continuously looking into possibilities and ways to increase the vessel’s performance, comfort and safety. For one of our newest boats, the Windcat MK3.5, we have once again innovated by making the structure for the accommodation area out of carbon composites, resulting in significant weight reductions and allowing a floating superstructure, which reduces noise levels for the technicians on board for additional comfort. As a result, the vessel is able to operate at 31kt with only two 720kW engines, with a fuel consumption of 250L/h at 25kt and 360L/h at 30kt – a new industry standard for efficiency.