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Marine Electronics & Communications

Marine Electronics & Communications

Owners seek VSAT benefits for offshore vessels

Thu 07 Sep 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Owners seek VSAT benefits for offshore vessels
Highland Chieftain was controlled remotely in the North Sea from an office in California

VSAT provides the conduit for real-time monitoring and improving IP-based communications for offshore support vessel owners

Seacor Marine is installing VSAT and a back-up L-band service on a fleet of 30 vessels that operate in the North Sea and off west Africa. UK-based AST Group is supplying the VSAT hardware, the back-up communications, voice over IP (VoIP) and data services over multiple satellite networks. AST is also providing its Integra network devices that enable Seacor to monitor and control bandwidth usage on the vessels.

This allows Seacor to ensure bandwidth is used efficiently and securely on board these offshore support vessels for both operational requirements and crew welfare. Seacor internal communications manager Richard Marshall said the satellite connectivity enables more IP-based applications.

In June, offshore support vessel operator Companhia Brasileira de Offshore (CBO) ordered VSAT and satellite TV antennas from Cobham Satcom for six newbuildings. These vessels are being built at the Oceana Shipyard in Itajaí, Santa Catarina in Brazil to fulfil development contracts offshore Brazil.

Cobham is supplying the satellite communications terminals to these anchor handlers this year and in 2018 through its Brazilian partner Inovsat. Equipment has already been installed on the first of the six newbuildings, CBO Bossa Nova. Another newbuilding was fitted out in August, while the rest are due to be delivered to CBO through 4Q 2017 and 1Q and 2Q 2018.

CBO operates a fleet of 27 offshore support vessels including anchor handlers, platform supply vessels and underwater construction support vessels. The majority of these have equipment supplied by Inovsat and Cobham.

GulfMark Offshore and Wärtsilä have successfully tested remote control of an offshore support vessel’s dynamic positioning (DP) system using a VSAT link. Wärtsilä was able to manoeuvre the 80 m platform supply vessel Highland Chieftain, which was stationed in the North Sea, from an office in San Diego, California, USA.

This involved driving the vessel through a sequence of manoeuvres using a combination of DP and manual joystick control on 21 August. This was the first test of a remote control capability that Wärtsilä developed in 2016. Highland Chieftain has a Wärtsilä NACOS Platinum package for navigation, automation and DP.

Additional software was temporarily added to the DP system to route data over the vessel’s satellite link to the workstation in California. The test was conducted in four hours, during which the vessel was driven at high and low speed and all the procedures reportedly went as planned. Wärtsilä’s development of remote access to vessels could enable virtual service solutions for shipowners who need their DP systems tuned or tested.

In west Africa, Total Exploration & Production is using satellite communications and Opsealog’s software to improve fuel efficiency for a fleet of 15 vessels. During a proof-of-concept test, Total achieved fuel savings of 11.5% for the fleet over a six-month period.

Total used a marine logistics program from Opsealog to control vessel schedules during operations in Angola, where the French oil company supplies several deepwater oil production, storage and offloading vessels. Opsealog provides a data analytics platform that has a set of decision making tools for the performance management in an offshore supply chain.

To see a video of the remote control of Highland Chieftain, use this link:


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