One of the biggest offshore wind conferences in the United States is the International Partnering Forum (IPF) by the Business Network for Offshore Wind.  This year, the IPF is entirely virtual, due of course to the coronavirus pandemic. 

SubCableWorld is providing coverage of the Virtual IPF as it takes place throughout the summer.  In this review, we are covering the Land to Sea Session, which included presentations from Royal IHC, Robert Allan Ltd. and Moran Cybersecurity. 

Presenter: Stefan Lettink, Royal IHC

“Royal IHC is working on an autonomous Service Operations Vessel (SOV) that we think will contribute to a safer and more efficient operation of offshore wind farms.  When we say “autonomous,” we do not mean “unmanned.”  There will be humans on board in an operational or supervisory capacity, however the number of crew will be significantly reduced.” 

IHC decided to incorporate its various hardware and software products into an autonomous system.  This includes IHC’s expertise in shipbuilding and automation, as well as it Gangway, PathPlanner, DP System and Workability Tool.  The IHC Mission Master will coordinate these various elements and allow the vessel to visit offshore wind turbines and land the gangway system under human supervision, leading to less crew and lower OPEX.  The benefits of this is a higher level of safety and reliability during transfer of people to the turbine.  It will lower operational costs by reducing the number of crew and fuel consumption and it will provide a lower LCOE and enable higher uptime for the turbines. 

The drivers of this technology are:

  • Cost of downtime. As turbines become larger, costs of downtime are increasing enormously.
  • Improved safety and efficiency. As windfarms get bigger there are more parameters that impact the operation.
  • A more data-driven operation and maintenance approach.

The challenges are:

  • Even for a company with all of the hardware and software in-house, it is a challenge to bring it all together.
  • Sometimes autonomous systems are in conflict with conventions. It is likely to be some time before the IMO comes up with regulations for these types of systems. 
  • Cyber Security. The more data being collected, the more connections being made and the more vulnerable the system will become.

Erik Johnston of Robert Allan Ltd.

Robert Allan Ltd. has developed the RAmora system of remote control for workboats.  “We think it will take time before the industry is ready for fully autonomous operation.  Remote operation is a step towards that ultimate goal.  RAmora is remotely operated by an experienced tug master, but a number of driver assist functions are available to reduce loading and operator fatigue or perhaps intervene in unsafe operations.” 

There are many things to think about with the Human Machine Interface Design:

  • The industry is not ready for fully autonomous operations.
  • Even with “driver assist” functions, operations by a licensed mariner may be wanted or required.
  • Ship handling requires a high level of situational awareness of ship’s bow and towline action.
  • Non-visual cues are important if 3D depth perception is impaired or not possible, e.g. engine sound, towline tension, motions.
  • What kind of controller inputs or driver assist functions are needed?
  • What is the most effective 2D environment?
  • What about VR and AR?

The main hurdles are regulatory and legal.  Rules and guidelines are being developed and the IMO undertaking regulatory scoping exercise.  There are questions regarding how responsibility, liability and insurance will be handled. 

Capt. Alexander N. Soukhanov, Moran Cybersecurity

“Moran Cybersecurity is a unit of Moran Shipping, which has been around for about 85 years.  As a ship agency we provide coordination of logistics in our ports around the United States.  Ports are a natural hub of data between ship owners, financiers, Coast Guard, customs, etc., so it’s a natural place for cybersecurity to be.  We built the cybersecurity team to focus on the convergence of the systems on board vessels and the IT infrastructure of the businesses themselves. 

Much of what’s happening across industries is a rapidly increasing connectivity between systems that help businesses operate.  This increase connectivity is about the access of data and to optimize the stream.  This is happening in the ports.  There is an integration of a wide variety of technologies to help ports operate efficiently. 

Cybersecurity isn’t just a cost, it’s actually an important step into validating the protection of the investment.  We’ve seen over the last three years that shareholders at the executive level are prioritizing cybersecurity.  These stakeholders decide on the risk assessment process from the beginning.  They can influence design with the vendors by incorporating best practices and innovation.  Designed end to end collaboration through process of new build.  Improve safety, resiliency and reliability through security by design.  Continual collaboration continues through the life cycle of the investment.”