ACCOMMODATION AT SEA – Comfort at sea for optimal workforce efficiency Part 1: Temporary Living Quarters

While crew transfer vessels have originally been the main source for transferring technicians and engineers and their work tools to and from the wind farms, the growing trend of wind farms being, and to be built, further at sea has proven to provide quite some challenges for this sector. A challenge not only to maintain or increase the weather window in which to operate in these harsher sea states, and so the economical viability, but also to safeguard the personal well being of the crew.

Especially in the construction and commissioning phase there is a large concentration of activity taking place in the wind farm, with many people involved. For the crew to go up and down each day from port to wind farm could, with some of the wind farms planned, take far too many hours a day of travel time.

Still a future for CTVs

In the April 2012 edition we therefore questioned whether the crew transfer vessels (CTVs) might in the future stop being used in wind farms located far at sea. As we can tell from the article on CTVs earlier in this edition this does not seem to be the case. The CTV builders and operators are working closely together on providing larger vessels with more accommodation space for technicians and with better sea capability for operation in harsher sea states in order to achieve as much comfort possible for these technicians and engineers and therefore safeguard their working spirit and productivity. But these vessels, although still increasing, do have an operational limit.

OW22_spread 21 2With some of the wind farms planned over 100 kilometres from shore the industry realises the necessity of keeping the crew at sea, not only to save valuable time, but, providing proper accommodation where it is needed, also to improve their well being. Both essential criteria for working towards the needed cost reduction as a fit person is more productive. So what solutions are out there today? In this article we focus on the flexible solutions, the temporary living quarters (TLQ’s) that can be placed on vessels or on the offshore substations.

TLQ – Temporary Living Quarters

The large installation vessels specifically designed for the wind industry, the WTIVs, in general already have taken the accommodation space needed for the crew worked out in the vessel design. However, the vessels that are not specifically built for this industry, such as the jack-up vessels and barges, will have to adjust their deck layout for each project. This is where TLQ’s are an efficient solution to create temporary accommodation or working areas. There are several players in the industry that can offer these modular units, and to varying degrees in functionality, size and comfort standards.

ELA Container Offshore GmbH

The German ELA Container Offshore GmbH is a part of the ELA Container Group. The Group employs more than 450 employees and gained more than 40 years of experience. ELA started with the refurbishing of 20ft. DV transport containers into mobile storage and work stations for rent and sale originally in 1972.

In 2008 the company received its first offshore order providing additional living quarters for 200 persons on board of the multi supply vessel Blue Giant. The accommodation unit is still working today. This project would shape their future solutions for the offshore industry. Mr Gatzemeier, the Managing Director at ELA Container Offshore GmbH, says: “We realised that the concept should be more tailor made to the specific flexible offshore requirements.”

Based on these experience the ELA Container Offshore GmbH was established in 2014 to specifically serve the offshore renewables, oil & gas and dredging industries. So the company worked towards flexible standard 20ft units that could quickly and easily be refitted into the desired shape and function.

Hereby the new concept “Flexibility on Demand – One Type Various Accommodation Solutions” was born. Now the company has 370 offshore rental units after just having added 20 new containers in order to comply with growing demand. It has provided offshore units, such as TLQ’s, offices, locker and drying rooms for all kind of service vessels, jack-up barges, rigs and also for an OSS, the Helwin Alpha.

Hereby the new concept “Flexibility on Demand – One Type Various Accommodation Solutions” was born. Now the company has 370 offshore rental units after just having added 20 new containers in order to comply with growing demand. It has provided offshore units, such as TLQ’s, offices, locker and drying rooms for all kind of service vessels, jack-up barges, rigs and also for an OSS, the Helwin Alpha.

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All units are produced by their own manufacturing facilities, the production is strictly monitored by DNV GL; therefore each unit provides the highest quality standard. Mr. Hans Gatzemeier explains, “We offer turnkey services that are “Made in Germany”. All containers are DNV2.7-1 /EN 12079-1, CSC certified. As all the components and furniture we need are owned by ourselves and stored in-house, we are able to offer a quick delivery service. Due to its ISO Norm, CSC measurements, the containers are delivered at low costs and within a minimum of time, by ship, train or by one of our 60 trucks, which is depending on the type of project.” The units can be placed in rows and columns and stacked up to 4 times. By removing walls larger areas, for office or storage space for example, can be created within a block. Flexible ELA Gangways and ELA Stairway Containers can be added to create one large living and work block with easy access. When it comes to TLQ’s they can provide them for 1, 2 or 4 persons with a shared sanitary unit. The units have fire protection able to withstand 60 minutes of fire. Each unit has 2 doors, the main entrance and an emergency exit. Mr Gatzemeier, “All units can be connected onto one electrical power system unit so it can function independently. We can even provide waste water and fresh water solutions for these blocks.”

He confirms that nowadays the offshore clients are looking at more comfort at sea. Where initially TLQ’s were made for 4 persons there is now a growing demand for 1 or 2 person units. When asked what future trends he foresees he replies that these will likely be in the area of mobile offices, drying rooms and recreational spaces. “We experienced that clients want to react more flexible to specific needs, save space and costs by just adding a few containers or removing them again.”

Ferguson Group

Another company is Ferguson Group. The company has over 35 years’ experience of building and assembling modular complexes in varying sizes and with varying functionalities and its divisions have already been involved with several offshore wind projects such as described in the April 2012 edition where Ferguson provided TLQs for the installation vessel Jumbo Javelin which was used  by Jumbo Offshore for installing TP’s at Greater Gabbard and Anholt offshore wind farms.

Gary Wilson, Managing Director, UK Business Unit, Ferguson Group explains: “Working offshore often takes place in harsh environments and it is important that workers are housed in high quality accommodation. There are particular guidance standards that set out the basic requirements for offshore living. The most obvious are sufficient bedding, adequate storage space, no overcrowding and reasonable privacy. Good practice will include a medical facility, laundry and a recreation area.”

The most recent offshore project was not for a vessel but for an offshore platform. Their UK team completed a 16 module accommodation complex to house 32 persons on the HelWin Beta platform in the North Sea off the German coast. The complex is a two storey block, containing galley, mess, recreation rooms, gymnasium, offices, meeting rooms and accommodation units. The integral stairs and walkways to access the modules, and the escape stairs were all designed and fabricated in their Inverurie manufacturing facility.

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In addition to the two storey complex, the company also supplied a power distribution module, reverse osmosis water making and sewage collection facilities for which it channelled assistance from all divisions of the Group. The complex was dispatched with a Ferguson Group crew of specialist field services technicians who hooked up the mains distribution, power, water, HVAC and sewage systems quickly and efficiently. All together the entire project took just six weeks from order placement. Mr Wilson: “This was a real team effort and is a testament to our staff on our ability to complete this project in such a short timescale, given the added complexities of the additional ancillary items we also supplied as part of the overall project.”

The company is now busy managing other builds, both large and small.


Another provider of TLQ’s, Seafox (formerly known as Workfox) has taken the growing demand for comfortable accommodation for engineers and technicians working offshore to a higher level and are now claiming to offer the ‘Rolls Royce’ of TLQ’s.

The company has just completed 14 prototype units which provide a high degree of comfort and safety. John Verdonk, the Business Unit Manager TLQ’s at Seafox: “We are the first world wide to offer TLQ’s that are built according to DNV 2.7-1 and DNV 2.7-2 standard. They are also built to conform with the NORSOK guidelines, therefore ensuring maximum safety and comfort for the crew.”

These 2-unit TLQ’s are relatively large measuring 10.2 by 3.3 by 3.3 metres providing comfort with ample space for 2 persons per unit. Rather than using bunk beds these units are designed with 2 low large sized single beds opposite each other. Each bed section has its own TV screen, USB adapter, adaptable light and plugin for earphones. The bathroom has a heated floor and swing doors for the shower instead of curtains. By integrating the airco system into the ceiling and using a larger air filtering system the noise in the unit is reduced significantly. All these factors contribute to provide extra comfort.

All the TLQ’ s are designed for operation in all offshore industries, built to the highest safety standards, including A60 and ex- proof, suitable for zone 2 environment. Each unit is built to the DNV 2.7-1 standard for offshore lifting and is fully insulated. They have been tested for response to fire and have explosion protection and gas detection. Mr Verdonk adds: “Literally every single element has been checked by DNV surveyors and adjusted where needed.” The company had Scandinavian standards in vision when designing the concept and choosing the materials. The window frames, doors and panels are, for example, all by Norwegian companies.

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Seafox contracted industrial service company Hertel in Rotterdam to built the TLQ’s. At the moment the first 14 prototypes are completed and will be placed on the Seafox 4 and 24 are planned to be built for the Seafox 5 for future work in the offshore wind sector. Another stock of these TLQ’s will become available for rental in the near future.

These three players all look back on a long history in providing these temporary solutions and are just a few names in this industry segment and new ones are entering. All companies have identified the growing demand for comfort and privacy of crew that spend longer periods of time at sea and have, each in their own way, responded accordingly to this need with their flexible temporary solutions. In the next edition of Offshore WIND we will look at the more fixed solutions that have entered the market and have been gaining ground and further developed over the past few years; the accommodation vessels and offshore service vessels.

Sabine Lankhorst