Domestic companies cope with marine engineering tasks
In late 2022, Russian companies performed a high-precision deep-water operation on replacement of buoyancy tanks at the Single Point Moorings of CPC terminal in Novorossiysk. Previously, foreign companies were contracted for such works. General contractor of the project was Alliance LLC. Aleksey Milovantsev, General Director of the company tells IAA PortNews about the specifics of that sophisticated operation and shares the company’s plans on expansion of its activities and on entering the market of dredging.
- Mr Milovantsev, Alliance is known as the bunkering market player. Why did it suddenly decide to participate in a deep-water project?
- I would not call it a sudden decision. Established in 2004, Alliance is permanently developing. In order to expand the range of services, the fleet and the geographic footprint, North Alliance LLC began its activities in 2016. Both companies specialize in towing and they provide a full range of the related services. We perform docking and undocking of large-tonnage tankers, escorting of vessels along challenging fairways and in sever ice conditions, cutting ice away from berths, delivery and embarkation/disembarkation of pilots, delivery of crews, rescue operations.
Our fleet consists of tugs acquired in the world market. Our companies’ tugs are of high ice class allowing for year-round navigation. As of today, 6 various tugboats of Alliance operate in the northern sea areas of Russia, 8 tugboats of North Alliance ensure uninterrupted operation of freezing ports in the water area of the Gulf of Finland. So, we operate 14 tugboats in the ports of Vysotsk, Murmansk, Kaliningrad, Vladivostok, etc.
In 2020, we made a decision on further broadening of our activities. The fleet of Alliance was expanded with three special-purpose ships: Rubin, Nephrite and Emerald. At the time of their purchase, Russia had no ships of that kind. As a rule, Russia used to charter such ships abroad.
At that time it was a free niche in Russia, and we occupied it. Thanks to this step, the company continued expanding its geographic footprint and the range of services. Now we are able to survey objects at a depth of up to 2,000 m; conduct maintenance and repair of various objects and equipment using remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV); perform maintenance of single point mooring systems (SPMs buoys). The company has obtained an experience in surveying the underwater part of Nord Stream 1. Today we carry out geodetic works and maintenance of platforms in dynamic positioning mode, transport cargo for drilling and offshore production support. Among our services are also handling of working anchors, towing of drilling ships, platforms, lighters and vessels of the technical fleet. Thus, our participation in the project of Caspian Pipeline Consortium on replacement of buoyancy tanks at the Single Point Moorings near Novorossiysk was a natural stage in the development of the company, expansion of its activities and competence.
- What were the specifics of works implemented in the water area of the CPC terminal? What was the role of your company, what contractors were involved?
- Initially, our ships met the specifications of CPC tender on replacement of SPM buoyancy tanks and we were going to execute the works on our own.
We were ready to act as the General Contractor under the project. To comply with the contract terms we deployed multipurpose vessel Commander fitted with the dynamic positioning system and operated it.
To fulfill the tasks in the water area of CPC Marine Terminal, all the required materials and devices (over a thousand items) were delivered to the Commander in a record time from all over the Russian Federation. Among them was a domestically produced specialized diving complex MKVK-60 with two decompression chambers, a chamber and an antechamber, as well as all life support systems.
We also involved our engineering team. Engineering aspect of the work was important since highly accurate and sophisticated operations were to be performed at a depth of about 40 meters to dismantle, mount and position the CPC buoyancy tank. Moreover, the works were carried out in challenging weather conditions, after the end of the season when the storm period began with a constantly changing winds and currents, both surface and underwater ones. It is also important that the operations were conducted close to the operating SPM where tankers were being loaded all the time. One more aspect was associated with the need to ensure about two days of ongoing process with respect of weather-related restrictions - a wave height of no more than 1.5 meters.
It was a sophisticated engineering project at the intersection of technologies. The team included experienced divers of the European Diving Company LLC, specialists of engineering company Beluga involved in the project development, and other domestic companies, including equipment manufacturers.
19 divers working round the clock in two shifts were assisted by a 140-tonne crane of the Commander and remotely operated underwater vehicle Subfighter 15k. The latter was lighting the site of works and assisted with its manipulator.
No one ever performed such works in Russia before. Only foreign companies were involved so everything was done by Russian contractors for the first time. The implementation of our project at CPC has proved the ability of Russian companies to solve extraordinary tasks and implement high-precision deep-sea projects of any complexity.
Perhaps there is something we cannot cope with technically but our engineering solutions let us deal with it quite well. We succeed with our ingenuity. Maritime projects are interesting because they are always different from one another and they always need individual solutions.
- Any plans on the fleet renovation and expansion?
- We will continue building up the fleet of tugs. In 2023, we are going to acquire three powerful azimuth tugboats to work for Alliance and North Alliance.
- What are the company’s development plans? Will you increase the competences and the geography of works?
- We continue development. Market conditions always suggest new rules. Dredging equipment is in an acute need today, hence our decision to develop this segment in 2023.
Alliance has acquired a non-self-propelled bucket-type dredger (with a 16-cbm bucket). We are preparing the dredger for transportation to Russia and holding pre-contract negotiations on its operation. There are only three dredgers with similar characteristics in Russia today.
In 2023, Alliance will enter Russia’s dredging market and become a new player in this segment.