The offshore wind ‘gold rush’ is back on track, following a brief plateau period in the mid-to-late 2010s. What with new wind park leases being approved globally, and environmental legislation driving major changes in how countries source their energy, the offshore renewables sector is in a robust position at present.
Naturally, this upturn has fuelled demand for available crew transfer vessels (CTVs), service operation vessels (SOVs) and heavy-lift turbine installation ships. However, it is also creating a need for service providers that can undertake comprehensive surveys at planned wind farm sites, in order to detect the presence of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and other objects, and to guarantee the integrity of subsea cables. One such company is Nicola Offshore, a recently formed venture that will initially focus on providing survey services in the North Sea and Baltic Sea regions, albeit with long-term plans for international expansion.
UXO still poses a serious threat to offshore developments in European waters; according to some risk consultancies, it’s possible that only up to 70% of the hundreds of mines laid during WW2 have been recovered. “If you take a look at the North Sea / Baltic Sea regions, 1.6 million tonnes of conventional UXO is still on the seafloor, creating huge issues for Germany as it tries to expand its offshore wind ambitions,” Daniel Esser, MD for business development at Nicola Offshore, tells Ship & Boat International. “UXO is creating huge challenges within the tourism industry too: there is much UXO close to very busy tourist areas, and this needs to be detected and cleaned up ASAP to ensure safety.”
Headquartered in Hamburg, Nicola Offshore comprises a joint venture between Germany’s Nicola Engineering and Dutch boatbuilder ProMarine. The latter company has developed the PROCAT 1200 OBC survey vessel type, customised for Nicola Offshore. As of March, the first in this class, Nautical Explorer (pictured), was already on the water, while the second, Nautical Inspector, was nearing completion. “Our goal is to have four PROCAT 1200 OBC vessels operational by the end of 2022,” adds Dick Duin, MD, fleet management.
Nautical Explorer measures 12m x 4.5m and carries 12 offshore personnel and two members of crew. “For the hull and deck, we used vinylester and glass composite,” says Duin. “The lightweight fenders are made of polyethylene foam, with a 4mm-thick polyurea coating with an anti-slip top.” The boat is powered by twin 261kW Yamaha outboards for a speed of 44knots, and has a range of 250nm.
Although part of the same class, its successor, Nautical Inspector, will instead be fitted with twin 112kW OXE Diesel outboards. “The outboards will have a torque of 630Nm per engine, which provides a longer range of 600nm and a better fuel/distance rate,” says Duin. The company also plans to take delivery of a catamaran next year, which will incorporate the potential for hybrid propulsion into its design. That vessel would be able to switch to all-electric mode when surveying at a speed of approximately 4-7knots.
In addition to the PROCAT 1200 OBC boats, Nicola Offshore’s fleet also includes the PowerGlide 46-type catamaran Nautical Surveyor, a 14m x 5.2m vessel with a 1.5m draught. This boat’s extra space and stability has enabled the group to place an A-frame on the aft deck, which will be used to deploy and tow survey systems. Nautical Surveyor accommodates up to eight persons and has a speed of 27knots, enabled by twin 336kW diesels.
ProMarine is currently building a second vessel with an A-frame for Nicola Offshore, with delivery expected later this year. Furthermore, Duin says: “As a part-owner of Nicola Offshore, ProMarine has three fast workboats, of different models, in stock. These are ready to be deployed as survey platforms should the Nicola Offshore team need them.” And, while all of the above vessels are manned, the company is partnering with Subsea Europe Services “to introduce more automation and autonomy to the marine survey workflow”.
(For the full article, please see Ship & Boat International March/April 2021)