Germany’s SAL Heavy Lift is a well known specialist in sea transport of heavy lift and project cargo.
Not too long ago the company launched a subsidiary SAL Offshore B.V. to focus on developing and delivering offshore installation solutions for the oil & gas and renewables sectors.
By adding MV Svenja and MV Lone to the fleet, SAL Heavy Lift has signalled its intention to expand into the offshore installation market.
SAL Offshore was established in 2012 with its office in Delft in the Netherlands. Today the firms of the SAL Heavy Lift Group have about 160 employees working at various onshore offices plus another 550 crew on their vessels.
To let us find out more about this relative newcomer to the offshore installation industry, Managing Director at SAL Offshore B.V, Charles Nicolson, answered a few questions about the company’s projects and future plans, and Karsten Behrens, Director Engineering walked us trough Wikinger offshore wind farm test piles installation in the Baltic Sea and other projects.
You’ve recently completed Wikinger OWF test piles installation project in the Baltic Sea, can you tell us a little bit more about how the whole project went and your cooperation with Bilfinger?
The Wikinger OWF Test pile project comprised the installation of 3 rows of 3 piles for testing the bearing capacity of the piles. Immediately after installation and 10 weeks later the piles were tested. Bilfinger contracted SAL to provide the DP2 vessel MV Lone to perform the installation of the piling template on the seabed, the installation of the piles and measurements on the piles. SAL delivered the project management and engineering relating to grillage and seafastening, the rigging design, deck lay out, tugger plans, marine procedures and operation of the vessel.
From a technical and operational point of view, it was an interesting project since it entailed a number of different aspects, such as the dual crane lifting of the 27 m long piling template, the dual crane up-ending, stabbing and piledriving of the 9 piles and the ROV assisted subsea mating of the Testbeam. These operations required that the MV Lone kept station for a long period whilst being connected by umbilicals to the template. The motion response of the vessel was better than expected in the Baltic (winter) conditions.
The cooperation with Bilfinger was very pleasant and efficient, with direct communication lines, working as one team with the same goals. Throughout the entire project, we felt that working with Bilfinger was like working on the same level as a true team. The result was a very efficient and effective execution of the project, explained Behrens.
What makes SAL Heavy Lift stand out from competition on the subsea installation market and what can you tell us about your fleet?
In addition to a generous and useful lifting capacity, our DP vessels feature a huge unobstructed deck and a large hold. This in combination with their high speed of 20 kn offers interesting possibilities to efficiently combine transport and installation. Typical work scopes which we target are the installation of transition pieces and pre-piles for the off-shore wind industry and the installation of large and complicated floater (FPSO, FSRU, FLNG etc.) mooring systems for the Oil and Gas industry.
The 16 (DP and non DP) vessels in the SAL fleet permit SAL to provide transport and installation solu-tions which avoid the need for marshalling harbours by combining the DP and non DP2 vessels to provide a large volume transportation and installation solution with transportation direct from the man-ufacturer’s location.
SAL’s reputation is built on more than the equipment alone. SAL is proud of the problem solving men-tality of the engineering groups located in Hamburg and Delft and also the vessels officer’s and crew.
The 1100t monopod setup project, performed by your MV Svenja at the well KLU in the “Kitchen Lights Unit”, was successfully completed in June this year, how was the vessel prepared for the work and how was the KLU campaign executed?
SAL’s Head of Engineering said: Our MV Svenja not only had to install the different components of the platform it also acted as a big working platform with workshops, welding stations, installation equipment and living quarters. We had to receive cargo barges with equipment, crew boats, etc. alongside. Also dive support vessels moored alongside to perform diving tasks.
In order to keep the vessel on position throughout the whole installation period and in currents up to 7 kts a 10-point mooring system was installed. An interesting aspect was that due to the high content of silt in the seawater it was not possible to use it as cooling water for all the power units so an entirely closed cooling water circuit was prepared.
The two main lifts have been the Monopod with 1100t and the Topside with abt. 700t. Both items were brought alongside by barge, lifted off and then accurately placed with Svenja’s two 1000t cranes. The Monopod was lifted in tandem mode, i.e. with two 1000t cranes working simultaneously, the topside was lifted on a single hook.
Considering the downturn in the oil & gas industry and the challenging market for many contractors right now, are you going to focus more on shallow water and renewables such as offshore wind and tidal energy installation projects?
Nicolson explained: SAL Offshore has a 3 segment focus: Oil & Gas, Renewables and Civil. We basically regard the current downturn in the Oil & Gas sector as a great opportunity; more than ever, the operators are now obliged to find cost effective solutions for the installation, maintenance and repair work of their assets. SAL Offshore can deliver services at a very competitive price. Further, it is in SAL’s culture and abilities to deliver fast response.
We see the offshore wind industry as an ever-interesting market: the volume of the OWF components to be transported and installed within a project is typically large, while transit durations need to be kept short; this suits the SAL vessels better than any other fleet. The vessel’s DP capabilities allow to keep station without leaving imprints on the already rather congested seabed.
The Civil market focuses on, inter alia, installation of jetties, bridge sections or harbor infrastructure – also in an exposed environment. Further tidal installation activities, building on our recent experiences at the EMEC site are targeted.
Lastly, on a side shoot, the salvage market remains an interesting market, especially since the lean SAL organization has proven to be capable of providing exceptionally quick and reliable solutions to challenging technical problems: the Costa Concordia project is regarded as the first of many to come.
Readers from our sister website Tidal Energy Today would also like to know more about your recent project at EMEC and whether you’re in play for future tidal energy activities?
SAL has performed three separate campaigns at the EMEC site in the Orkney Islands. During these campaigns, SAL Offshore’s main vessel, the DP Class II successfully installed, removed and re-installed a VOITH Hytide 1000-13 tidal turbine.
The installation process required MV Lone to lift the tidal turbine from its transportation cradle on a barge and place it on the pre-installed foundation. Securely installed in the foundation, the turbine blades are some 14 m below sea level.
Installing tidal turbines is very demanding for a vessel’s DP system as the position has to be held in strong currents. In this case, there was a time slot for deployment only once every six hours during slack water. Although installation took place at slack water, while there was still a 1 knot tide running, the vessel was also required to sit through the full flood which peaked at a maximum current of 5 knots a number of times for the subsequent commissioning program.
Subsea World News; Image: SAL Heavy Lift