The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
A lack of investment and capital expenditure has left the oil and gas industry in a lull, however innovation and a frosty future is good for some, says Gerard Laden, director of East Yorkshire, UK-based firm Mimir Marine
“Nowt in tin”, the Yorkshire colloquialism, describes well the economic forecast for the oil and gas supply chain. With “no money available” for investment and capital expenditure in offshore oil and gas related projects, the market is in a lull. Yet highly specialist innovative design, manufacturing and service provider companies may well be better placed than many to navigate these troubled waters.
The withdrawal of the ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance was said to be a key geopolitical trigger to the Falklands War, so potent is having a physical presence in remote waters.
Norway’s COG Offshore, DOF, Farstad, Simon Møkster Shipping and Solstad, Deep Sea Supply of Cyprus and UK-based Sealion, to name just a few, have all “laid-up” an unprecedented number of vessels, and worse still, for an indefinite period. There is no clear horizon.
However, a frosty future might be good news for some. Icebreakers have always been at the forefront of technological design, and political aspiration. With the UK building the RSS Sir David Attenborough, China’s first domestic-build icebreaker is underway with delivery due in 2019. The Finnish newbuild Polaris is to be the world’s first LNG-powered icebreaker. The already impressive fleet of 36 Russian icebreakers, six of which are Arktika class nuclear-powered vessels, are to be joined with the build of three LK-60YA class ships, each of 33,500-tonne displacement and able to break 2.8-metre thick ice. Closer to home, Norway is building its first icebreaker for more than 30 years, the Kronprins Haakon, for a cost of US$175 million (£134 million).
It appears that the chilled environment of capital expenditure on ships can be thawed by niche role ships with innovative design and global aspiration – and for small- and medium-sized enterprises, niche markets matter.
Building on the success of a highly innovative recompression chamber design for the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences (SAMS), used in support of the British Antarctic Survey, Mimir Marine has won a competitive international tender for the design of a twin-lock chamber for the Norwegian Polar Institute.
This novel design was offered with one compartment horizontal, one vertical, with castled doors able to take pressure from either side. The chamber is to be used in support of scientific diving operations under ice in the High Arctic and will be placed on the Polar Institute’s new research vessel Kronprins Haakon, named after the Crown Prince of Norway. The DP Class 2, 100-metre vessel is 9000 gross tonnes and designed for operating in winter ice and in ambient temperatures of minus 35°C. As a Polar Class 3 vessel, Kronprins Haakon can break one-metre thick ice at a continuous speed of five knots and maintain a speed of 10 knots in 0.4-metre (16-inch) thick ice.
The vessel, sponsored by the University of Tromsø, the Polar Institute and the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, has a world-leading scientific outfit that allows special containerised laboratories to be installed on a mission specific basis – for example, oceanography, marine biology geology, and meteorology.
A moon pool is fitted with various launch and recover systems for underwater surveying equipment including ROV and AUV, bottom profiling and seabed sampling technologies, along with shallow-water and deepwater bathymetric multibeam echosounders. It is expected that literally thousands of discoveries and world-class, peer-reviewed scientific papers will arise from the vessel’s research activities.