Acergy Falcon refit

-- FROM THE FULL PICTURE MAGAZINE -- Acergy believes that the refit of pipe-layer Acergy Falcon will extend its life by 15-20 years. Kongsberg Maritime's refit department is taking calls from owners all over the world who are eager to update their fleets at a fraction of the price of building new ships.

In economically challenging times, many ship owners consider refit a cost efficient alternative to newbuildings, increasing the lifespan of their vessels rather than taking them out of traffic. For Kongsberg Maritime's refit team, this means busy schedules. During 2008/2009, the department noticed an upsurge in demand for refits, both on ships that already have Kongsberg Maritime's equipment installed onboard and ships with equipment from other suppliers.

"We are experiencing an increasing interest in our services these days. Compared to a newbuilding, refit is a smaller investment reducing operational costs and increasing efficiency. Most vessels have a lifespan of more than 25 years and it is self evident that the computerised systems onboard need updating during this time period," says section manager for refit in Kongsberg Maritime, Per Bruun.

Refit – an act of necessity

One recent project by Kongsberg Maritime was the refit of Acergy Falcon. Acergy is a global contractor of seabed-to-surface engineering and construction to the offshore oil and gas industry. According to Chief Electrician in Acergy, Agnar Førde, a refit of this ship was an act of necessity.

"When our old thruster control system onboard Acergy Falcon no longer met today's standards, there was no alternative to a refit. It was a question of to be or not to be. We chose to modernize. Acergy Falcon previously had equipment dating back to 1995. A lot has changed since then, making it difficult to get the required service, expertise and spare parts," explains Førde.

As project manager for the refit, Førde knows the vessel well. Built in the 1970s, the former dynamically positioned drillship was purchased by Acergy in 1994 to be converted into an offshore construction vessel. A rigid pipe lay system was installed in 1996, and since then, the ship has been rebuilt several times and the equipment updated.

"We chose Kongsberg Maritime for this job because we were already familiar with their equipment, and knew that it was reliable. The fact that we already had Kongsberg equipment onboard also facilitated the refit process. I think the strength of Kongsberg lies in the fact that they can provide complete system deliveries tailored for our needs. As a result, we can relate to one vendor instead of many different ones," says Førde.

User-friendly equipment

Acergy Falcon operates worldwide installing pipelines with diameters up to 14 inches in deepwater, flexible flowlines and umbilicals. These are all jobs that require a high degree of precision and stability of the vessel. A dynamic positioning system class 2 from Kongsberg Maritime is therefore a vital part of the equipment onboard, ensuring the vessel stays within specified position and heading limits.

During refit, the old DataChief 2000 installed in the 90's was replaced by a K-Chief 500 monitoring and control system, which provides the ship's officers with all basic alarm and status information. This includes thruster control, dynamic positioning, auxiliary control, alarm system, watch calling system and a particularly advanced power management system (PMS) controlling 7 generators. In addition, Kongsberg Maritime delivered K-Pos dynamic positioning system and K-Thrust thrusters control system.

Agnar Førde has no doubt that these upgrades will improve the functionality of the vessel: "One advantage of the new system is that control is done by decentralised distributed processing units (DPUs), which can be easily replaced. In my opinion, K-Chief 500 is specifically designed for changes, replacements and upgrades, something that will hopefully prove beneficial to us in the future. In addition, it is user friendly so that our crew can easily learn how to operate it. As a result we hope to lessen the need for service onboard and increase safety," he says.

As an offshore vessel, the Falcon is dedicated to important safety tests once a year, where all the normal maintenance and routines are controlled by an external, third party. According to Førde, reliable and user friendly equipment is exactly what is needed to ensure safe operations.

"Safety can be seen in many different ways. Some are more preoccupied with the formal documentation. Of course this is important, but in my opinion safety is what lies beneath, what drives the vessel forward. It is the equipment onboard that will help you out of a difficult situation. I would say that reliable, well functioning and user friendly systems are alpha and omega for safety," says Førde.

The refit process

The Acergy Falcon refit took place last November. Finding time for the actual refit in between the vessel's contracts was a challenge according to project and commissioning engineer in Kongsberg Maritime, Anders Holmen.

"This was a challenging job for our team. Not only was the installation date changed several times, but the installation itself was quite complex. Since this is an old vessel, it has been rebuilt several times. Finding all the existing cabling and integrating it into our power management system took a lot of effort from our side," says Holmen.

Agnar Førde concludes: "Kongsberg Maritime's refit team has really impressed me. They are highly skilled with obvious experience and drive from many similar projects. As a result of good project execution from both sides, the Acergy Falcon can hopefully operate for another 15-20 years."

Acergy Falcon:

  • Built in the 1970's as a DP drillship
  • Bought by Acergy in 1994 and converted to an offshore construction ship
  • Rigid pipe lay system installed in 1996

Kongsberg equipment after refit:

  • K-Chief 500, including power management, thruster control, auxiliary control, alarm system and watch calling system
  • K-Pos Dynamic positioning system and K-Thrust thruster control system for the bridge
  • Number of operator stations: 6
  • Number of DPUs: 132
  • Number of control items: Approximately 500
  • Number of signals: Approximately 3000