Technology will provide safe access to offshore structures

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Government funding has been granted to accelerate the development of an offshore personnel-access system.

The Neptune technology, created by STL Research, addresses the problem of how to provide safe and timely access for the maintenance of unmanned offshore structures, including wind turbines and some oil and gas platforms.

The system comprises a carrier supported by a large, hydraulically actuated arm. It is mounted on a vessel and moved in such a way that it is ‘space stabilised’ by compensating for vessel motion (pitch, roll, yaw, heave, surge and sway).

The funding, from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), will enable STL to gain internationally recognised accreditation for offshore use.

David Kirkley, STL’s managing director, told The Engineer: ‘The two key things are, first, the year-round aspect, because in the winter, sea conditions are worse, but the other point is that up until now most offshore wind farms have been near shore and easy to access. Once they start to move further off shore, it’s going to be a different story.’