“Walk to Work (W2W) solutions are a norm in the Southern North Sea and a viable alternative to helicopters, which used to be the main means of transportation to offshore platforms,” says Haije Stigter, an expert on the subject of W2W.
Haije has decades of experience in the offshore industry, having worked for Shell for many years, and he knows what it takes to get people to work offshore and back home safely. Today, he is Technical Director at Fizzy Transition Ventures, a young, innovative company looking to bring the industry closer to a sustainable future and accelerate the energy transition. And he’s optimistic about the potential ahead, especially given the fast pace of innovation until now.
“Ten years ago, W2W wasn’t the norm,” he says. “It was the exception.”
“In the past, you used to always be dependent on platform supply vessels and the cranes available on them in order to transfer people and cargo offshore,” Haije says. “Ampelmann developed one of the first motion compensated systems in the world and made offshore access safer and more effective.”
While W2W has contributed to improving safety in the offshore industry, it has also highlighted new opportunities in the market. It is not just about getting people to work locations anymore; it is about game-changing innovations and providing a full service. It requires an understanding of what kind of work people do offshore and what they need to perform it in a safer and more time- and cost-efficient manner.
“You need to look at the whole spectrum of requirements – at getting people there, but also at what tools, materials, spare parts or possible fluids can or should be transferred. Also, once you’ve transferred people on the platform, is there anything else smart that you can do with the gangway system,” asks Haije. “Can you attach tools or surveillance equipment on the tip of the gangway to do maintenance, inspection, painting or cleaning, for example? There are plenty of opportunities.”
The domain of W2W has matured during the years to the point that offshore access solutions can enable a lot more than what they were initially intended for. And that’s great news for all stakeholders involved, both in O&G and Offshore Wind.
The two industries might often come across as rather different, yet they have more in common than meets the eye. “I don’t see why we could not look at a collaborative environment where we can share resources and services,” Haije says. “We have operated O&G in offshore environments for a long time and there’s lots of experience in doing so. Nowadays, in fact, you see a lot of crossover of professionals from O&G to Offshore Wind.” During his last two years at Shell, he worked in the Offshore Wind team as well.
The need to share knowledge, skills and expertise is among the main drivers of such cross-industry collaboration. The key piece of advice here would be “not to reinvent the wheel,” as Haije puts it. There is no value is trying to replicate what others have done if there is a possibility to go for the best solution straightaway.
Safety is at the heart of all offshore operations, which is why the industry should be joining forces and work to continuously improve it, instead of going it alone.