Offshore containers claim attention
Dynamic development of the shelf zone and introduction of new maritime equipment worldwide spurs the development of a new container market segment – offshore containers being used for supplying fixed and floating platforms and being transshipped in the open sea. Requirements concerning this specific type of transport facilities are becoming tougher but still need to be improved.
Offshore containers are required for transshipment in the open sea and are primarily used for maintenance of offshore drilling platforms’ activities. The demand for offshore containers is growing as the development of offshore fields is on the rise. Consequently, requirements related to safe delivery and handling of offshore containers need improvements.
This transport equipment has its specific features, Dmitry Yarveper, expert of the Department for Technical Supervision of Containers, Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RS), said at the conference “Containers and Container Transportations. Topical Matters, Ideas, Solutions” organized by RS. As a rule, containers are loaded and unloaded from open decks of supply ships to platforms with the use of fixed cranes. While being handled they are exposed to dynamic and impact load. Therefore, offshore containers feature heavy-duty and reliable structure. That is achieved through application of high-strength materials and special supervision from classification societies, said the expert.
When it comes to offshore containers, RS applies the rules developed in compliance with the requirements of IMO MSC/Circ860 “Guidelines for the approval of offshore containers handled in open seas” and ЕН 12079 standards. Besides, Convention for Safe Containers can be applied in case of multimodal freight transportation. If a container is intended for transportation of dangerous goods it should also comply with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.
To enhance safety of cargo delivery to floating platforms, new ISO standards were introduced in 2018. Some of them were developed with the participation of RS head department.
“The standards are arranged in three parts. The first one specifies requirements for offshore container design, the second one is focused on the associated lifting sets, the third one – on inspection of containers and lifting sets”, said Dmitry Yarveper.
According to the expert, the new standard has been expanded with requirements on a driving ramp designed for a certain load and requirements on protection of open containers, both in terms of design and testing.
Besides, the standard requires that lifting rods of less than 25 mm thick should be made of high-strength shipbuilding steel. That is a new requirement as well as a recommendation to weld lifting frames to the container’s carcass.
A new method of non-destructive examination was introduced for periodic inspection of containers in service. An eddy current method is offered for testing welds without damaging the coating.
There is always room for improvement
Meanwhile, market players dealing with offshore containers see regulatory voids in this segment. The key problems were outlined by Artemy Rudny, engineer at Belfreight JSC (Arkhangelsk), a company actively participating in oil-and-gas and research projects on the Arctic shelf of Russia. According to him, the key problem in this segment is the absence of dimension standards. In the result, containers are manufactured in compliance of each customer’s requirements with certain parameters for each specific cargo. According to Artemy Rudny, standartisation of dimensions would have a positive impact on offshore containers cost recovery and on their rental rate.
Artemy Rudny explained that the pay-back period of offshore containers is quite long, up to seven and more years. That is mainly due to the fact that such facilities are used primarily during the drilling season which lasts for 105-120 days per year. “That does not let container operators offer low rent rates”, - said Artemy Rudny. Besides, container owners incur expenses on maintenance of a base for prompt repair of damaged containers taking into consideration tough conditions of their usage. That is also reflected by the rental rates.
The business has also asked RS to take part in development of regulations on maritime transportation of offshore containers by supply ships. “The requirements on open deck lashing have been frequently questioned in reality, - said Belfreight representative. – Such containers are currently subject to regulations similar to those applied to general cargo. We would welcome regulatory documents that could simplify transportation of offshore containers”.
According to Yevgeny Karpovich, head of the laboratory of Central Marine Research and Design Institute (CNIIMF JSC), regulations on transportation of containerized cargo by seaborne transport introduced in 1997 and valid today do not have a section on offshore containers. He says that CNIIMF specialists have developed a second-to-none technique of optimal lashing for each vessel and each cargo. “The life forces us address this challenge today. We are ready to develop new regulations covering offshore containers, said Yevgeny Karpovich. – The revision of regulations on transportation of cargo in containers including offshore containers is a long overdue need. Nothing has been done in this respect for the recent 15 years.