The first day of December saw Danish shipowner Esvagt christen its long-awaited, compact service operation vessel (SOV), Esvagt Mercator. Formerly referred to as Newbuild 48, Esvagt Mercator was built to the specifications of Havyard’s 831 SOV class at Cemre Shipyard, Turkey, and has been chartered to MHI Vestas Offshore Wind on a 10-year lease.
At the naming ceremony, hosted in Ostend, Belgium, MHI Vestas chief operating officer Flemming Ougaard said: “We look forward to utilising all this ship has to offer in maintaining the turbines at Nobelwind and Belwind 1”. Both offshore wind parks are located in Belgian waters, with Nobelwind hosting 50 and Belwind 1 hosting 55 turbines. Esvagt Mercator will primarily be tasked with providing standby safety coverage for technicians working at both sites, utilising Ostend as her home port.
The vessel was launched in late June this year, before undergoing sea trials in September. Cemre Shipyard is now working on a second 831 SOV for Esvagt, ordered in autumn 2017, which has a reported value of NOK70 million (US$8.4 million) and which is earmarked for completion in August 2019.
The ethos behind the 831 SOV concept has been to provide a compact alternative to larger offshore support vessels (OSVs) and smaller crew transfer vessels (CTVs), while optimising fuel consumption and realising a safe working environment. According to Gisle Vinjevoll Thrane, vice president for sales at Havyard Design & Solutions: “The market for big service vessels for offshore wind farms is a relatively new one. The [turbines] used to be serviced by small, fast-moving boats that transported personnel and equipment daily to and from the shore. More and more wind farms are now being serviced by bigger ships where the service personnel work and live on board for prolonged periods.”
Spanning 58.5m in length and 16.6m in breadth, the 2,989gt Esvagt Mercator is indeed smaller than the previous 832 SOV class vessels that Cemre Shipyard built for Esvagt between 2014-2016. Measuring 83.7m x 17.6m, these 832 SOVs include Esvagt Froude, Esvagt Faraday and Esvagt Njord. Despite this, Thrane says that the 831 SOV has been designed to boast “ample capacity [for] personnel and equipment”, thereby increasing the potential for significant cost savings for operators, compared to larger vessels or smaller support craft that cannot carry as many technicians and as much cargo. Esvagt Mercator can accommodate up to 36 people (including 22 turbine technicians) for up to two weeks at sea, and features a maximum draught of 5.5m.
Another differentiating factor from the previous class is that the 831 SOV carries three of Esvagt’s in-house-produced safe transfer boats (STBs). Created as an alternative (or supplement) to walk-to-work gangways, these STBs will be used to shuttle technicians, tools and spare parts between Esvagt Mercator and the turbines. An option exists to install a hydraulic gangway aboard the SOV, should MHI Vestas later request that feature.
According to Havyard, Esvagt Mercator’s hull has also been designed “to ensure low fuel consumption and to move in a way that ensures maximum comfort for the crew and service personnel on board”. The SOV’s engine arrangement and fuel capacity grant the vessel a speed of 12knots and the ability to remain at sea for 30 days between port calls.
However, the 831 SOV delivery does not mean that Esvagt has exhausted its demand for larger units: Cemre Shipyard is also building a vessel of Havyard’s 832 multipurpose vessel (832 MPV) class for Esvagt, currently referred to as Newbuild 53. Slated for delivery in spring 2018, this newbuild will measure 81.9m x 17.6m and feature a deck area of 620m², a speed of 15knots and a bollard pull of 100tonnes. The vessel will be deployed by Hess Corporation in the oil and gas sector and will be equipped with cranes and winches delivered by Palfinger Marine.