Driven by data. A vessel monitoring system on the FCS 2710

When it was first introduced to the maritime market, Damen’s Fast Crew Supplier (FCS) 2710 – the successor to the FCS 2610 – hit the headlines for many reasons. Stepless and safe crew transfers, increased passenger capacity and an optimised hull are all pieces of the puzzle that illustrate the evolving design. All in all, the new FCS 2710 packs a lot of vessel into its 24-metre load line. Despite all the media attention, there is one particular development on the FCS 2710 that deserves to be put into the spotlight: its on board vessel monitoring system.

The launching customer of the first FCS 2710 was UK-based offshore crew transfer service provider High Speed Transfers, a relatively young company with a clear focus on the European offshore wind sector. The company deploys this first vessel – called HST Hudson – to transport up to 26 personnel to their offshore workplace with a combination of high speed and comfort. With regard to the subject of this article, though, the most notable feature of the HST Hudson is that it is the first new build vessel from Damen’s High Speed Craft portfolio to be equipped with vessel monitoring equipment.

Impact loads

This raises the question what were the motivations behind installing a vessel monitoring system on board a crew transfer vessel? “For this client, one of the most important aspects was to measure the impact of the boat landing on the turbine platform,” replies Thijs Muskens, design & proposal engineer at Damen. “These turbines are designed to cope with a certain load and it is the captain’s responsibility – and therefore our responsibility – to make the approach as smooth as possible and not exceed the impact threshold limit. Offshore wind majors are becoming increasingly data-driven and desire fact-based proof of impact loads for the vessels operating in a wind farm. This proof can be generated by the connected ship system.”

In addition to the actual landing on the turbine, comfortable transport from shore to the wind farm is another part of the process. To this end, another reason to gather data is to improve the comfort of this journey. “This is an important feature in our entire range of high speed craft,” he continues. “We want vessels like the FCS 2710 to be as comfortable as possible. In general, the technical personnel on board do not have that much experience at sea and, as a result, are more prone to seasickness than experienced crews. We want to postpone this for as long as possible and gaining insight into the perceived comfort can help us do so.”

Six degrees of freedom

A six degree of freedom accelerometer sensor is used to measure the amount of movement on the vessel. “These measure, amongst others, pitch, heave and yaw,” explains Thijs. “If the captain can see the acceleration levels during sailing, this can be linked to the general well-being of the passengers.” These data relating to accelerations have a dual purpose. “Of course, it is very useful for the captain to have on-the-spot feedback. But our customers also want to know the comfort levels on board, and, importantly, to be able to back this up with hard data.”
One of the difficult things to determine is an acceptable level of vertical acceleration. This is due to the subjective nature of the human experience. “Storing data and linking it to the experience of the crew can help with this,” says Matthijs Richelle, Damen Services development manager. “A future plan that we are experimenting with is a ‘smiley face-sad face’ feedback method to measure perceived comfort. By matching comfort levels to actual data parameters such as wave height and ship motions, we are trying to translate the human experience into numbers. Learning from the data is important – this will allow us to advise our clients on their sailing profile, for instance.”

Different questions, different answers

The offshore wind sector – indeed, the entire maritime industry – is becoming increasingly driven by data. Providing data on a vast array of parameters – including sea state, wind direction and number of transfers – is becoming the new industry standard. It should, therefore, be of no surprise to read that Damen is not limiting its work on the subject of vessel monitoring solely to its Fast Crew Suppliers. “Every product that Damen builds has different parameters in terms of performance and we want to answer the different questions that each product group has,” notes Thijs. “Speed and comfort are the most crucial factors for our high speed craft. Tugs are different though – then it’s more about towing force. For offshore transport, workability and fuel consumption are important. And for dredging, we propose looking at dredge production rates and performance. The most important point for us is to translate sensor data from performance indicators to create insight for our customers to optimise their operations. Moreover, we can also use these data to improve the designs of our vessels.”

Installed as standard

Vessel monitoring is certainly a powerful tool in the shipbuilder’s tool box. At its simplest, it is a method to observe what is happening with the operations of a vessel at any given time. “In effect it is a live representation of what is happening on the vessel,“ says Matthijs to highlight how Damen is endeavouring to maximise to the full potential of vessel monitoring by taking this a step further.

What we are currently developing is a system that is based on the data gathered – an analytical tool that will assist onshore teams to improve and create insight into their offshore operations.

The possibilities are undeniably extensive and, in fact, Damen is installing data collection systems on all newbuild vessels with a compatible alarm monitoring system as standard. In terms of passenger comfort and sailing routes, for instance, concrete progress has already been made. Looking ahead to the impact that vessel monitoring will have on preventative maintenance, vessel performance analyses and simulation – and even ship design, the future is exciting.

Note: The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Offshore WIND.