Taking the elevator to the working platform

In only two years Zbridge has designed and marketed a fully operational Bring-to-Work system.

In only two years Zbridge has designed and marketed a fully operational Bring-to-Work system. The diagonal lightweight telescopic lift is ideally suited for smaller vessels like CTVs. An example of how you can, by looking at the same problem in a different way, come up with an innovative solution that the offshore wind industry is looking for. The biggest puzzle for director Bastiaan Spruit is to scale up in a controlled way.

Zbridge Bring-to-Work system

For which problem have you found a solution?

“During the construction and maintenance of wind turbines, employees are brought to the offshore wind farm, normally with smaller boats. These Crew Transfer Vessels (CTVs) push onto the boat landing, after which the employees climb up the stairs to the working platform. Many companies want to get rid of this because of the high investment and operational costs. Moreover, you can only dock at one place. For the larger Service Operation Vessels (SOVs) Walk-to-work systems are becoming increasingly common. The personnel first go up with a lift and then walk horizontally over a gangway to the platform. However, these W2W systems are too large and heavy for CTVs. Companies are increasingly wondering whether those large ships are the right size for the maintenance operation.”

What is the core of your solution?

“We have developed a lightweight, fully motion-compensated Bring-to-Work system for CTVs. A maximum of six employees board a trolley, which takes them diagonally over rails on a telescopic arm to the working platform. The telescopic arm can be extended up to 39 meters and can thus bridge a height of 10 up to 24 meters from the deck. Most platforms in Europe and America are at 18-20 meters. In addition, the trolley can transport 1000 kilos of tools and components. And finally, the telescopic arm can serve as a motion-compensated crane to lift 3 tons of cargo from the vessel deck to the TP.”

What is so groundbreaking about your solution?

“This is the very first Bring-to-Work system and the first transfer method that has been specially designed for CTV’s. We approached the problem of safely transferring people from a boat to a wind turbine in a completely different way. We wanted to develop a system that saves money and fuel. Developments in W2W systems are variations on the same principle. My colleague Reinout Prins - the initial founder of the W2W system - has started to look at the same problem in a different way: the shortest route between two points is still a straight line. If you cannot do that on foot, you must come up with something that does not require you to walk. And so on. The result resembles a moving lift, although that was not the source of inspiration.”

What are the benefits of your Bring-to-Work system?

“The entire construction weighs only 27 tons. In comparison, our W2W system weighs 55 tons. It is, therefore, suitable for smaller vessels, but also for larger ones of course. The range of the arm is flexible, from 10 to 22 meters, without having to rebuild everything. The system is in fact three machines in one: 6 people or 1-ton transport or 3-ton lift. We have adapted the movement compensation for a CTV so that you can transfer people safely. The Bring-to-Work system is a  a module that you can lift on board with a standard crane, and it is operational within 24 hours. That makes it very attractive for short-term projects as well. Because our construction requires less hydraulic power and CTVs only use 20% of the fuel of a large ship, the energy consumption and the CO₂ emissions are significantly lower.

Where are you now?

“We started the design at the end of 2019. Last year we tested the system. After a few modifications, Ørsted commissioned the first full-scale commercial system on a CTV in March this year, to support the construction of the British Hornsea II wind farm. The first experience is very good. We are now building the second and third systems, which should be ready in August. For the second system, we already have a customer, for the third, we are in talks with several customers. There is great interest from the market.”

What are your challenges?

“We had to overcome a lot of mechanical challenges for our system. To compensate for movement with a lightweight construction on a small ship, we had to keep the centre of gravity low. And running a trolley smoothly over rails on an extendable telescope is also a challenge. There is a lot of cleverness in our system. The biggest puzzle now is to grow step by step. We do not want to start building in a hurry, our organization must also be able to keep up. You must think carefully about when and how you want to scale up. We want to build two systems every six months. Even if we had money and customers for ten systems, we would take it step by step.”

What are your next steps?

“We are becoming more known, certainly because of Ørsted as a customer. We are even approached for completely different applications, such as pilotage. You do not want to know how a pilot climbs from a small boat onto a container ship. Or for floating wind farms. There are very different motions at play, but companies are asking us now to see how B2W can compensate these motions.”

What are the benefits of TKI Wind op Zee?

“We were a nominee in the Offshore Wind Innovators Award. As a result, we have been given a stage to present ourselves in the offshore wind industry. It is very good to show that an innovation actually leads to implementation in the market.”

Product information: www.zbridge.nl

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