Tom Blanchford

Product Manager, Pipe and Cable-lay Systems

‘Integrated vessel, integrated approach’

“Offering a truly integrated offshore pipelaying vessel was something the market hadn’t done before,” says Tom Blanchford. As Product Manager at IHC Engineering Business, Tom represented the pipelaying equipment during the tendering process for the design, engineering and construction of the offshore pipelaying vessels for Sapura Navegação Marítima (Sapura). 
Tiltable tower
“We had to make sure we aligned our approach with the other IHC business units to develop a combined proposal that answered the customer’s needs,” says Tom. One of the questions IHC EB needed to answer was how to comply with the air draft restriction. The flex-lay tower couldn’t exceed a height of 48 metres – when measured from the waterline – in order to pass a bridge en route to the pipe loading location.
“We created a solution in which the top of the flex-lay tower is tiltable,” Tom explains. “In addition, the vertical lay system was installed directly aft of the accommodation in a forward orientated manner. By incorporating tilting cylinders into the accommodation superstructure, the lay system can move between 80 and 90 degrees. This arrangement leaves a large free deck area.”
But that wasn’t the only hurdle. “For me, one of the major challenges in the integrated approach was that everything is intertwined,” says Tom. “With such a complex project, whenever there is a change made to one of the components, it will immediately influence other parts of the vessel. Getting everything set wasn’t an easy task.”
Take for instance the new design of the tower. Tom: “The way the pipes were fed through the customised system made for more complex initiation and recovery operations; a critical path for our customer. We had to solve this with another innovation, one we like to call the ‘rollercoaster’. Everything works efficiently now.
“All in all, this new approach was a great challenge, but it has been very successful for both Sapura and for IHC. After the initial contract for two 550-tonne vessels, we were awarded another contract for three more vessels. It is a great opportunity to work on such an immense project with a fantastic team around you.”