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Offshore jack-up vessels

In June 2011 REEDEREI NSB was given responsibility for the management of two identically constructed SEABREEZE-class offshore jack-up vessels. These 3rd generation jack-up vessels offer high-performance lift and jacking capacities which enable them to install modern wind power plants for example in the North Sea and the Irish Sea.

At the time of REEDEREI NSB’s entry into the project, the ships were still under construction in Korea. At the beginning of 2012, they were taken over and have since been gradually put into service. With this, REEDEREI NSB has entered a completely new market which is still subjected to rapid changes and – in light of the current economic-political grounds – difficult to assess.

While size and value of the offshore jack-up vessels is fairly on par with the other container ships and tankers we manage, the multitude of options in operations, crewing and technical supervision is remarkable.

This is supplemented by the challenge of integrating these vessels into the respective installation projects. It requires a significant amount of know-how which goes beyond the set of skills used by a ship manager and his crews in merchant shipping.

All this is taking place against the background of constantly developing potentials within the offshore segment which is also orientated along national and European energy politics. It is currently difficult to anticipate investment decisions in wind energy projects as well as in the service provider industry. These circumstances have considerable relevance for the development of this business area, not only for REEDEREI NSB.

Conventional Aspects in Ship Management

While we will go into more detail regarding the technical aspects of operating, maintaining and further developing these vessels in other articles, we will use the management of “regular ships” as a reference.

Generally speaking, 3rd generation offshore jack-up vessels are working ships that are primarily stationary, i.e. standing firmly on jacket legs above the water. Using their own propulsion and autarkic systems, they are able to switch positions and install cargo which is transported by them or taken over on site.

Foundations for wind power plants and VICTORIA MATHIAS in the port of Bremerhaven
The cranes of both offshore jack-up vessels are able to lift 1.000t each
Inside the cockpit of a crane

Merely the multifunctional use and large number of systems on board of these vessels require a comparatively large crew that is specialized but yet universally deployable.

In addition to the typical structure of nautical and technical operating seafarers, the standard crew of these ships consists of offshore crane operators, operating staff for the complex jacking-system and catering as well as hotel personnel for up to 60 people.

Similar to a cruise liner, the ratio between fixed and installation crew – which rotates depending on the project phase – amounts to two to three. Of course in this case, it is not luxury and accommodation but efficiency, flexibility and comprehensive utilization of the technical capabilities of the vessel that are paramount.

Even more rigid than in the case of conventional ship management the optimal compromise between labor costs and labor capabilities has to be found. Workload, off-times and an accordingly tight rotation as well as substantial training and education programs have to be balanced, so that despite the continuous crew changes an efficient routine settles in. And of course we may never lose the attention to detail and the ability to react quickly and in a professional manner.

Similarly ambiguous is the approach to technical management. While in our approaches to warehousing and supply cost efficiency is very important, our superintendence has to act flexible and performance-driven. At best, the disposition of service tasks can be geared to weather forecasts but their execution can only aim for the best result within the shortest period of time. Given the daily costs of these vessels even the most expensive task may – if objectively assessed and carried out professionally – be followed by an even more time and cost consuming procedure.

As this very brief introduction shows, our offshore services are rather complex and often pose new challenges for NSB employees at sea and on shore. REEDEREI NSB gladly accepts these challenges and in doing so actively supports the build-up of renewable sources of energy. We will continue to regularly document our work here, so feel free to visit this area again in the future.