Over the past few years, there has been significant growth in the offshore wind industry. It has become larger than ever, and according to current expectations and predictions, it will keep on growing over the next 10 to 20 years. Due to the increasing demand for clean energy, more wind farms will be built offshore in the future.

With this in mind, the industry continues to develop new turbines, tools, monopiles and vessels to meet the demands. These include Van Oord, the international marine contractor, who developed its first cable-laying vessel, the Nexus in 2015. For this vessel, they requested support from HVR Engineering. To understand why Van Oord has asked HVR for their followup project – the Bravenes – as well, HVR Engineering co-founder John Hessels takes us back to the commissioning of the Nexus. How can an Eindhoven Strijp-T based company become the expert for complex marine operations like these?

What is HVR Engineering?

HVR Engineering was founded by John Hessels and Jan van Rooij in 1984. After graduating from the Eindhoven University of Technology, Hessels and Van Rooij established HVR Engineering with power transmission as their drive. HVR Engineering initially started by simulating the dynamic behaviour of hydraulic components and constructions. In order to completely understand and predict the physical behaviour of hydraulic components, Finite Element Analysis was added to the company’s portfolio. HVR developed its own measurement system to validate concepts and contribute to its advisory services. The fourth generation of this system is now on the market.

HVR offers services such as structural design and verification (FEA analysis), drive and control system analysis, and measurement and control (HVR measurement system). Signature projects range from the hydraulic system in the Maeslantkering (waterflood defence) to IHC IQIP’s Hydrohammer, and from petrol pumps for Schlumberger (now Tokheim) to roller coaster trains for Vekoma.

“If we look at the start of this project, then we must also look at our previous project for Van Oord”, says John Hessels. “A few years before the Nexus was developed, we supported them with another vessel, the HAM 602. This is a side stone dumping and cable-laying vessel that was originally built in 1968 and upgraded in 2012-13. On this project, we actually designed the basis for the Nexus. Van Oord wanted a cable-laying vessel that could be operated by only one man with a fully automatic system. We supported them with the development and upgrade of the HAM 602 and its system and found a way to make the vessel an efficient, cost-effective and safe cable-layer. During this project, the foundations for a fully automatic system that could be operated by one man were laid, which was unique for cable-laying vessels at that time.”

From HAM 602 to Nexus

“After the HAM 602, Van Oord came to us regarding their new cable-laying vessel – the Nexus”, Hessels continues. “It was a completely new ship that was developed and engineered from scratch. However, it already had the fundamental principles from the HAM 602 and would be the first cable-laying vessel that could be operated by one person with a fully automatic system. When we started the project, Van Oord already knew what equipment they were going to use. For example, the huge cable carousel, which gives the vessel the capacity to lay more than 5,000 tonnes of heavy and long export cables.”

HVR Engineering faced the task of finding the optimal solution for the equipment and system to work together efficiently and safely. This was achieved by executing lots of simulations of the behaviour of the system and the equipment.

Hessels: “By analysing the results of the simulations, we were able to advise Van Oord about the most suitable solution for the Nexus. After the simulations, they made the decision to modify multiple aspects in regard to the equipment and add extra functionality to the quadrant. The quadrant was originally designed to guide the cables efficiently without any chance of nods in the cable. Alongside this, the quadrant was now also equipped with a heave compensation system that enables the Nexus to lay cables in higher sea states.”

Commissioning the on deck equipment

Nexus Van Oord Cable laying vessel © Van Oord

After the creation of the new equipment, it was time to commission the equipment on deck. HVR Engineering was again asked by Van Oord to support them. From the start, there were multiple options for the deck layout suggested by Van Oord’s Project Manager Gerry Mensink. In fact, it started with checking concept A and finally ended with concept G. During this phase, Van Oord checked the ideas with personnel on board to create the most optimal working conditions. This included mobilising the support of an ergonomics specialist to create the most optimal sightlines for the cabin.

“After the deck layout was chosen, we developed a test plan to commission the equipment step by step”, says John Hessels. “Firstly, the equipment was tested at another location. If it worked correctly, it would be built in on the deck and linked to the other equipment. Due to the preparations made by Van Oord, we were able to produce and place the equipment quickly without any replacements. We are very proud to have been a part of this journey.”

The Nexus was deployed for the first time in March 2015, directly after the naming ceremony. At this time, the vessel is still active as a cable-laying vessel. The Nexus is known for its unique deck layout with the anticipation of future market requirements, its efficiency and its way of safe cable-laying.

Van Oord about HVR Engineering

HVR Engineering worked together on the HAM 602 and the Nexus with Gerry Mensink. “HVR Engineering is a unique engineering agency”, says Mensink. “John Hessels is probably one of a small group in the market who can simulate performance and control of hydraulic and electronic systems. Alongside that, he knows how the programming of the system works. For the Nexus, we used the simulation details to program the system with his help. After the Nexus, we asked HVR Engineering to work on the Bravenes. It’s nice to cooperate with someone who has the same goal for a vessel.”

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