Will Hancock talks about his team’s recent visit to the Smulders Hoboken fabrication yard, why secondary structures are not secondary in importance, and how their detailed design work on Dogger Bank A may be setting the bar high for the offshore wind industry.

You and the team recently visited Smulders fabrication yard in Hoboken, what was the significance of that visit?

Sitting in the design office in front of a computer, you see things from one perspective. The fabricator is the one that builds your design and has different constraints to consider. Site visits make such a difference as they enable designers to learn about the constraints on the ground during fabrication. We’ve built a relationship with Smulders to align and ensure we can help them with their fabrication process as much as possible. Ideally, we would have visited them at various stages in the project, but due to the pandemic a lot of the visits were not possible, unfortunately, making this visit even more important.

In addition to the benefits of learning what constraints our fabricators face, visits are hugely beneficial and motivating to get engineers and drafting teams a chance to exactly what they’ve been working on. It provide perspective and lessons learnt along the way as you may pick up on elements that you’d like to change or that you wouldn’t notice just looking at the model.

Strengthening our relationship with Smulders and hearing learnings from their side is invaluable and being able to walk with them means they’re more likely to provide informal feedback that they may be less inclined to provide over email.

We were there to see the fabrications for our detail design projects Dogger Bank A, with Dogger Bank B to follow next year and Dogger Bank C the year after, so we really need to seize these opportunities to digest feedback and utilise it imminently on the next phases of the project.

Are there any key highlights you can pick out from working on this project?

A key differentiator and challenge for this project was that because Dogger Bank is so far offshore (+100km) in comparison to many other projects which would be roughly 20-30km offshore. Most of the time, you would use CTV’s (Crew Transfer Vessels) to go and work on these wind farms, you would do your job during the day and return to port in the evening. However, because Dogger Bank is so far offshore, by the time you got there, you’d basically have to return home again. It will need to be serviced by much bigger vessels with a ‘walk to work system’, so requiring direct access between the vessel and the inside of the tower.

One significant difference within our designs for this project compared with others is the external working platform where such vessels arrive. This is a unique design as most platforms are just one level, yet this design this includes an additional raised area.

Including this elevated platform within the design, means that from where the equipment is stored in the vessel and getting it into the tower is completely step-free, so time saving and safety has seen a massive improvement compared with other projects. Especially as key stakeholders mentioned these vessels often have a motorised trolley for moving equipment but you would have to lift it from the platform into the tower, and if you have a smaller bag, most workers wouldn’t get the crane out just to safely lift it inside, they would just drag it up the stairs.

In addition, the turbine supplier we worked with now use our designs as an exemplar and in their specification for other projects they request a platform like this because they recognise how much of an improvement it is to their operations. It’s quite exciting to think it may begin to become more industry standard and we would have been the ones to set the benchmark for this.

What are the secondary structures team responsible for and what is the importance within the end-to-end offshore wind consultancy process?

Because we’re defined as ‘secondary’ structures, people often think that what we do comes secondary to everything else in level of importance, but that’s far from it. As a lead for secondary structures, I need to be confident that it is as safe as it can possibly be.

Health and safety is the key driver within interface management, and we work closely with the fabricators and any relevant stakeholder to understand what our contractors want and how we can best help them. Working with key stakeholders throughout, we can ensure that every situation and every decision we have made has been carefully thought through, covering fatigue at sea, the proximity to electricity, working at height, heavy lifting and more. We provide a solution that best protects personnel and ensure they can do their jobs as efficiently as possible.

We are also responsible for design analysis assessment and must design structures that have minimal impact on the primary structure. We work closely with WT’s primary steel department to ensure that any design recommendations we make from a safety perspective will not involve too much additional primary steel and weight, and therefore the cost.

Likewise with the boat landing and external platforms, we excel at making these safe but cost efficient, keeping the steel weights down and using the steel efficiently.

Working closely with the fabricator is vital to ensure fabrication costs do not skyrocket.

Is there anything unique or different about the secondary structures department at WT?

Our collaborative approach. We work directly with our Primary Steel department to understand areas of concern so we can successfully optimise the primary steel design.

Compared to other companies, we have a very proactive culture when it comes to ideas and working collaboratively with our clients to design the best product at the end. Our clients know that we can provide the technical expertise and solutions to solve the problems they’re being faced with, and to do so with speed.
As well as this, our CAD and modelling teams have a great delivery process and we really do have a plethora of exceptionally talented people throughout the business.

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