By DARA BUTTERFIELD
Offshore energy support vessel operator Seacat Services has called for a change in UK regulations that limit the number of passengers on high speed workboats as it unveiled its first vessel capable of carrying up to 24 workers.
Seacat Courageous, a 26m high speed catamaran is the first of the Seacat Services fleet to benefit from the ability to carry more than 12 persons on board who are not engaged in the operation of the vessel.
Since the early beginnings of the offshore wind crew transfer industry, many operators of smaller high-speed craft have been bound to carrying 12 or fewer passengers. However, this is widely regarded to fall short when it comes to the manning of modern high-speed crew transfer vessels for use in both the offshore wind and oil and gas industries.
Furthermore, as offshore wind projects throughout Europe develop in size and complexity, the developers and operators of deep-water sites are increasingly demanding more versatile vessels with higher capacity for both equipment and personnel.
Seacat has said that while current regulations uphold stringent safety standards they, do not acknowledge that the typical passenger of an offshore energy service vessel is a highly-skilled technician accustomed to working in the marine environment and with appropriate safety training.
Ian Baylis, Managing Director, Seacat Services, said: “A change in regulations for UK-flagged workboats is something the industry has been desiring for some time – and now that they have this legislation in place elsewhere, in many ways it makes a great deal of sense for the MCA to follow suit, in order to attract vessels to the UK register.
“While we’re unlikely to see a fundamental shift in the expectations of project owners and the way in which support vessels are operated in the coming years, modified legislation will remove a fairly arbitrary restriction on the capacity of vessels and allow a greater degree of flexibility – both for already operational boats such as Courageous and new builds entering the water.
“In short, not every project is going to require 24-seater vessels, but for sure, UK-based operators need to be well placed to meet growing demand – particularly in the wider North Sea market, where regulation changes are already in effect and benefiting our overseas competitors”.
As offshore wind projects throughout Europe develop in size and complexity, the developers and operators of deep-water sites are increasingly demanding more versatile vessels with higher capacity for both equipment and personnel. In response, the German flag state has recently adopted a national guidance notice to allow vessels to operate with more than 12 people onboard in national waters.
Seacat’s new 26-metre catamaran has a modular interior, which allows the client to specify the number of suspension seats between 0 and 24, dependant on the particular operational requirements of their project.
This flexibility makes Seacat Courageous one of the most versatile vessels available to the European offshore wind industry, building on its already impressive sea keeping and load bearing capacity.