Oceanology International 2010 proved to be the ideal place for the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) to hold a dedicated workshop on remotely operated vehicle (ROV) umbilical and handling systems, the first being at IMCA's Annual Seminar in November 2009 in Rio de Janeiro.
"The workshops have proved to be highly rewarding occasions, bringing together IMCA members from around the world including engineering managers; vessel operators; ROV contractors; ROV suppliers - including manufacturers and designers of handling systems and umbilicals; and the insurance world," explains Hugh Williams. "All were eager to discuss vital issues on neutral territory in a dispassionate way removed from day-to-day work pressures and stresses. There is nowhere else where these issues can be aired like this and we are pleased that positive actions have resulted."
Jim Mann of Fugro opened the session at the London event, with Magne Andersen and Espen Ingebretsen of Oceaneering speaking about 'Challenges of ROV installation on newbuild rigs and vessels' and Andreas Gabrielsen of Nexans covering ‘Deepwater umbilicals'. The 50 delegates then split into groups to discuss new guidelines; competence and training; feedback from users to manufacturers; heave compensation; and design.
The guidelines workshop resulted in the decision that IMCA should produce an additional guideline covering what vessel designers should consider on new vessels if they are to feature a ROV spread. Aimed at efficiency of operation the new guideline will involve all parties including the vessel designer, vessel owner, contractor and ROV contractor and will encompass the amount of space required; ease of access; and ability to link up with all relevant services for example. This "spread mobilisation plan" will also be put to good use when considering existing vessels and how to improve efficiency and operability.
There is an existing competence assurance and assessment guidance document and competence tables for IMCA's Remote Systems & ROV Division members. The workshop discussions enabled everyone involved to realise that two relevant groups were not covered by the existing documentation - the ship's engineering crew and the project management team. Both will now be addressed, and companies will be encouraged to use the framework to provide competence schemes that encompass these two groups in order to create fully integrated operations.
"The workshop was designed to encourage feedback from users to manufacturers most certainly achieved its objective," says Hugh Williams. "For quite some time IMCA has tried, unsuccessfully, to involve university research teams on studies on umbilicals - in particular into the root causes of ROV umbilical corrosion. Thanks to the workshop, we have leapfrogged over the need for this. Having chosen to take part in this particular workshop, the umbilical manufacturer and contractors sat down together and had incredibly frank and useful dialogue. They were able to devise suggestions for measurement in real time; determine that there should be more research into failures; and to request that IMCA establish feedback via the existing 'anonymised' incident reporting system so issues can be fully understood. What's more, it was agreed that more R&D and testing was vital. This workshop alone proved the worth of the event."
IMCA has an active heave compensation work group, which recently held a well attended workshop in Amsterdam, so the group that met together at Oceanology International was briefed on the activity of that particular workgroup.
"This undoubtedly led to helping them understand that heave compensation is not a universal panacea and can at times be counter productive," explains Hugh Williams. "Discussions that took place within the group enabled them to understand the pros and cons of heave compensation for ROV operations. A likely outcome is to ensure that the product of the heave compensation workgroup will also take into account the similar ROV handling systems and ensure that the messages are clearly communicated to all relevant parties."
The final workshop of the afternoon looked at key elements of umbilical design - issues such as Z-kinking and damage through contact because of tight radii came into focus, and resulted in greater understanding by both users and manufacturers. This group's output sits alongside that of the feedback workshop.
"The London afternoon event (building on the work of the similar session in Rio) increased understanding across the industry from the centre (the user) backwards to the designer - who needs to understand uses of the ROV; and forward to vessel owners who need greater understanding of vital elements; and the ultimate customer - the oil company - with their particular demands on ROV contractors. We are very happy to be in the middle of this to facilitate discussion," says Hugh Williams.