What is it what I actually do?

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Most of my friends and relatives find it hard to understand what I actually do for a living. Explaining them that I supply chains, hooks and related products for lifting, does ring a bell, but when I talk about the stuff I do for the offshore industry, things tend to become a bit blurry most of the time.

So here goes, a brief introduction of the kind of offshore project I am involved in:

First of all, regulations state that every structure installed offshore, needs to be marked with lights and sound, to avoid ships or helicopters crashing into them at night or during low visibility weather conditions. Although all major oil and gas producing countries in the North Sea (the UK, Norway and the Netherlands) have different regulations, they all share the basics:

  • Marine lanterns (10 or 15 nautical mile, flashing Morse Code U, colour white)
  • One or more fog signals sounding Morse Code U with a range of 2 nautical mile
  • One or more red steady Aviation Obstruction Lights in case the structure rises more than 30 meters above Mean Sea Level
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Marine lanterns

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Aviation Obstruction Light on top of a crane

These products are called navigational aids, or Aids to Navigation (AtoN).

In case the structure is manned or in case power consumption is a critical issue, a visibility detector (or fog detector) is an important component, since it activates the fog signal (and lights) only when it is foggy. That certainly improves the working environment on manned structures, that’s for sure.

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Fog signal

Offshore structures, whether being an oil/gas platform, an offshore windfarm, an offshore sub-station, of whatever structure it may be, that is operational, will have it’s own onboard power supply. Marking these structures to avoid accidents typically is straight forward: deliver and install the equipment, a control panel, run some cables, and the system is up and running.

Far more challenging is the marking of structures that do not have their own power supply. Examples of this kind of structures are so-called jackets (the “foot” on which the “topside” of a platform is mounted), monopiles waiting for turbines or meteo masts to be installed on top of them, or – and this is more and more happening – abandoned platforms. The latter are platforms that are no longer in use, have basically been stripped and shut down and they are waiting to be removed.

An AtoN kit of Seaway on top of a GDF Suez jack

Jacket with navigation skid on top

Key for this kind of projects is that you need to bring you own power supply. So, we bring batteries. A lot of them. The next problem to be solved, is how to charge these batteries. We use PV modules, as they are relatively cheap, stable, reliable, quite efficient, require very little maintenance, have short lead times and provide a relatively predictable power output.

Sometimes, the structure only needs to be marked for a short term, as was the case with the jacket shown in the picture above, in which case we do not bother about charging the batteries and supply a system without PV modules. The same was the case with the monopile shown in the picture below:

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Monopile waiting for a meteo mast to be installed for an offshore windfarm

Despite the fact that the lanterns, fog signal and other equipment we use (from our principal Tideland Signal) is very power efficient, whenever the structure needs to be marked for more than – say – 4 months, we will need to charge the batteries.

In order to do so, we design steel (or aluminium or stainless steel if and when required) frames or skids, which we use to mount the PV modules. As there typically is sufficient space, we also install the battery boxes on these skids, as well as a control panel.

For relatively small structures, we use these skids also to mount the aids to navigation equipment, as shown on the pictures of the jacket and the monopile above, and the picture of the small platform below:

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Single 10 nm skid, teaming up with a 5 nm steady light station

For larger structures, we need to separate the power supply from the marine lanterns and fog signal, to make sure that they can be seen and heard from all approach angles.

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PV module skids with battery boxes on a helideck. The lanterns and other aids to navigation are  located elsewhere on the platform

So to answer the question what it is that I actually do::

Together with a number of partners, first and foremost Tideland Signal, I:

  • design solutions to mark structure offshore
  • design, build and assemble the skids
  • assemble the control panels
  • perform the so-called Factory Acceptence Test with the client at my workshop
  • deliver the systems in the port of departure
  • install and commission the system offshore, in case that is required
  • provide maintance and emergency support upon request

And in case the client requests more advanced solutions, we provide radar beacons, AIS transponders, satellite remote monitoring and other features as well.

So next time I tell you I am going offshore, most likely I will be lying on my back in a pool of dirty water, fixing cables underneath a helideck. What I will tell you, however, is that I had to climb on top of cranes, had to do difficult stuff, underneath a clear blue sky, with wires, relais, circuit breakers and other stuff you would like to stay away from as far as possible, or had a very choppy ride in the chopper.

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Note:

All pictures taken by me, except the pictures of the jacket and the monopile, which are courtesy of Seaway Heavy Lifting.

About robinjansen

MD of PC Jansen Marine Agencies BV, agents for several international manufacturers of equipment to the offshore and marine industry.
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2 Responses to What is it what I actually do?

  1. Arja Aling says:

    Nice & impressive job!

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