One of a kind: Saltwater Engineering
For engineering companies, successful projects act as valuable references for attracting new business. Keeping this in mind, the design and engineering of the block baskets for one of the world’s most well-known heavy lift vessels was an excellent opportunity for Saltwater Engineering to demonstrate its capabilities.
Saltwater Engineering was founded in 2007 to offer out-of-the-box engineering services. Since then, a team of fully-skilled professionals has been working together for all markets related to maritime industry: yachting, offshore, repair, heavy lifting, and commercial shipping. “Ever since our start in 2007,” says Sander Broekmeulen, Partner at Saltwater, “we have been able to grow and even this year, despite the COVID-19 crisis and the current oil prices, we are optimistic. In March, our business of course collapsed for a while, as many assignments were withdrawn. But we are now noticing a significant upswing. The industry is recovering and is beginning to approach us once again for new projects. It is evident that after a few months pause, the show must now go on.”
For most projects requiring fabrication, Saltwater Engineering works together with its sister company Saltwater Marine Services. Mr Broekmeulen explains, “Saltwater Marine Services started business in 2011 as a spinoff from our engineering activities. Back then, we noticed that many projects that we designed and engineered took very long to get manufactured, for example due to the client’s internal fabrication procurement process. This could in our eyes be improved by simultaneously executing procurement and engineering in one go at a ’one stop shop’. Together with Saltwater Marine Services and the carefully selected contractors they work with, we have developed a track record for designing, engineering, and manufacturing steel constructions in a much shorter timespan than other players in this market.” According to Mr Broekmeulen, this short timespan has always been one of Saltwater’s core values. “The ever-shortening lead times is a trend in both the shipbuilding and offshore industry”, he says. “In for example the construction of offshore windfarms, ad hoc assignments are common practice and we have been able to streamline our engineering processes so that we can offer short turnaround times with our multi-disciplined team. Companies such as Fugro, Damen, Jumbo, and Boskalis are returning customers with various short-term projects per year. For Saltwater’s engineers, the combination with Saltwater Marine Services is a unique opportunity to be closely involved with the construction of projects. “Our engineers really enjoy the way we work, as it enables them to actually see what they have designed during the manufacturing phase. Improvements can thus, whenever necessary, easily be made. This really is a true win-win situation, as the engineers learn from the people at Saltwater Marine Services and its contractors, and vice versa,” Mr Broekmeulen voices.
A project of which everyone at Saltwater can be proud is the construction of two block baskets for the Pioneering Spirit. “In 2018,” Mr Broekmeulen elaborates, “Saltwater Marine Services was approached by Allseas forthe engineering and manufacturing of two block baskets for main and auxiliary hoist blocks of the new crane on the Pioneering Spirit. As a result, the Saltwater engineers took care of the design and engineering, while the overall responsibility of the entire project was in the hands of Saltwater Marine Services.” The objective of the block baskets was to support the lower blocks of the crane in stowed position and to provide access to them for inspection and maintenance purposes. In close cooperation with Allseas, the design was agreed upon. The design needed to take several major design restrictions into consideration, including actual positioning and clearance issues with other equipment on the vessel and access for inspections and maintenance.
In general terms, a block basket is not so special as most cranes on vessels have these for safely stowing the blocks on board during sailing”, admits Mr Broekmeulen. “But in this case, we were dealing with a really unique piece of work. As with everything else on Pioneering Spirit, the block baskets are gigantic. The main and auxiliary block basket have outer dimensions (L, B, and H) of approximately 8.0m x 10.0m x 9.0m and 4.0m x 5.0m x 5.0m, respectively. The total weights of the baskets are approximately 45t and 12t. The relatively large weight of the main and auxiliary blocks, 200t and 50t, respectively, and the significant environmental survival conditions (significant survival wave height Hs =14m) resulted in a rather complex project. Both baskets have also been fully outfitted with ladders, stairs, and railings. The main hoist block basket has almost 80m2 of walkways, while the auxiliary block baskets walkway area is limited to 12.5m2.
The actual challenge started once the engineering was completed and approved by the client. “Fabrication on such a large scale and implementing the Allseas building specifications was something new to us”, Mr Broekmeulen comments. “We needed to develop new procedures and update existing processes to meet the high standards that were expected. From detailed material tracing to welder qualifications and weld specifications, every aspect of the fabrication process was documented. Extensive quality assurance and control procedures were implemented to track and guarantee the quality during fabrication. The block baskets were coated with several layers of two-component paint, which also needed to be considered during the QA/QC process.”
An excellent example
All in all, the company looks back on a very challenging project that not only required them to implement new processes, but also resulted in new opportunities. “The Pioneering Spirit project is an excellent example of what we can offer our customers. So we will obviously present, among other things, 3D models of this project at our booth. It proves that we are not only an engineering partner, but that we can also support clients in the fabrication of their final product.” Our concept of engineering and manufacturing in one hand, is one of a kind, and this is exactly what our many customers want to rely on”, Mr Broekmeulen concludes.