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A powerful partnership on a sustainable journey

Tommy Walaunet, Managing Director of Island Offshore, explains how his company's long-standing relationship with KONGSBERG has been key to delivering an effective and efficient switch to hybrid battery power on three of the firm’s vessels

  • Gunvor Hatling Midtbø
    Vice President, Communications

Island Offshore is a company with its origins in the oil industry of the 1970s, when it began building and managing offshore service vessels (OSVs). In 2002, the Ulstein and Chouest families combined their strengths to form the Island Offshore Group.

Today, that Group manages and operates 26 OSVs offering services in everything from rig and platform supply to drilling for core samples and subsea frame installations.

“We operate in specialised segments,” says Managing Director Tommy Walaunet. “We try to find niches where we have some competitive edge. So, our fleet includes specialist vessels in stimulation, light well intervention and walk to work, among other things.

“That means we’re able to offer what we believe are unique capabilities, which is how we both create value and differentiate ourselves in the marketplace.”

Tommy Walaunet, Managing Director, Island Offshore

Spring saw the addition of several long-term contracts with Lundin Norway and two new walk-to-work contracts with Trianel and Global Marine Group. Meanwhile, Island Victory successfully completed the heaviest lift ever performed by an Island Offshore vessel, lowering a 175.2 tonne subsea frame onto the Barents Sea bed.

In August, the company announced the conversion of three vessels to hybrid battery power in partnership with Kongsberg Maritime. One of the vessels — Island Commander — was diesel-powered. Island Crusader and Island Contender both had LNG engines.

“We decided to go with LNG engines on these vessels early on,” says Tommy Walaunet. “That was back in 2012, and to be honest, we expected by now to have seen more expansion in LNG engine power systems than we have. It’s starting to pay off now, but that’s eight years later!

“However, we then saw that there was a great potential from LNG and battery packages. So making the decision to switch to hybrid power was really just about recognising that potential.”

Island Crusader with battery pack installed

Partnerships are priceless

“Having a partnership strategy is extremely important,” he says. “Our approach to this project was to work with our customer, to explain the benefits of improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, and to create a contract that allowed us to make the necessary investment and share the advantages of it.

“That’s the only way we can finance it. Our business as well as the customer’s is characterised by financial challenges and deteriorating markets. And it’s not just because of COVID-19 — really we’ve been working in deteriorating markets since 2015.

“So for us to make an investment like this, we are very much dependent on working with both the customer and the supplier to find attractive solutions in which we all share the upside of the improvement.

“Our LNG vessels Island Crusader and Island Contender, for example, were both contracted to the same customer. The idea was to share the cost with the customer and to invest in finding a standardised solution that would allow us to implement the technology and the solution from one turnkey provider.”

“Our relationship with Kongsberg Maritime was a big advantage. They had the knowledge and experience required to deliver a working system with high efficiency" Tommy Walaunet

“They had the knowledge and experience required to deliver a working system with high efficiency. They were also able to provide excellent estimates and indications of what we could achieve based on their experience with us and with other clients.

“That meant the efficiency improvement and emission reduction estimates we provided as part of our business case were quite convincing, and that our customers were more than happy to go ahead,” he says.

The simplified version of the business case is this: it costs less to run a hybrid engine. OSVs typically run multiple engines at a time to achieve redundancy. That impacts on fuel performance, equipment health and emissions.

Combining LNG or diesel engines with a battery system means fewer engines need to run at the same time. That results in reduced fuel consumption, fewer emissions and — because of reduced machine time — lower maintenance costs. LNG hybrid engines can also store energy capacity for later use.

“We need to find solutions that allow us to deliver significant improvements within our resource constraints. KONGSBERG help us to achieve that, and, as a result, to achieve organisational goals” Tommy Walaunet

While the advantages are more marked with LNG engines, they apply to diesel too. And while they might seem at first sight to offer more advantage to the customer, who operates the vessels, they offer advantages to Island Offshore too.

“Part of our business case involves an addition to our day rate — we are paid more for providing vessels with these systems,” says Tommy. “We also have a fuel incentive scheme to ensure anything we achieve in that respect is shared.

“So the benefits are quite traceable — we achieve a higher day rate as a result of the investment, and anything it creates in terms of fuel efficiency and reduced emissions is shared as a fuel incentive.”

Hybrid is the future

Initial measurements based on Island Crusader operations over the last few months have been encouraging, says Tommy. And that’s important, because apart from fuel efficiency, energy efficiency and sustainable operations are becoming more and more important to Island Offshore’s customers.

“There’s willingness to pay more for sustainable and fuel-efficient solutions,” he explains. “That’s partly why we converted to LNG in the first place, even though the perception and importance of sustainability was not that high on the market’s agenda in 2012.


“It’s now developing in that direction for sure. And that’s where another advantage comes in — combining batteries and alternative fuels on an energy platform is an efficient way to bridge the path to new fuels.

“But if we’re going to continue making significant improvements in terms of fuel efficiency and emission reduction, it’s really key that the authorities in Norway and other countries support this retro-fit kind of strategy.

“The fact that all the players in the industry, especially in the OSV business, are having a difficult time financially makes it difficult to undertake this type of investment without that strong support, backed by creative vendor relationships like the one we have with KONGSBERG.

“That long-standing relationship is, of course, also very important. KONGSBERG know us well, our technical people work well together and they are very strong in being able to provide turnkey solutions.

“They’re not dependent on us providing a significant part of the project, or on other subcontractors doing so — it’s a one-stop-shop and that’s very important for us. We don’t have significant project capacity, so we need to find solutions that allow us to deliver significant improvements within our resource constraints. KONGSBERG help us to achieve that, and, as a result, to achieve organisational goals.”

Read more about our hybrid solutions here.