Key offshore vessel upgrade puts us in the spotlight as a valued long-term partner

In the Nordics, we don’t like to blow our own trumpets too much. But here goes anyway! One great example of our collaborative success with close customers is when vessel lifecycle management provider ACEL Group of Norway recently selected us to supply single drives as part of an extensive midlife upgrade of the multipurpose offshore vessel Island Frontier. Read on to find out why.

ACEL subsidiary HAF Power Solutions (HPS)’s core business is installing and commissioning commercially available technology as part of vessel lifecycle management services for shipowners. Last year, one of their longstanding clients, Norwegian shipowner Island Offshore, commissioned them to completely overhaul the electrical systems onboard the 2003-built Island Frontier, one of three subsea construction vessels in its diversified offshore fleet.

As Island Offshore’s founding vessel, it had 20 years of successful operation behind it, but the cost of maintaining obsolete electrical systems for another 20 years of demanding operations would have been far too high – hence the overhaul.

HPS’s scope encompassed project management, engineering and installation of equipment. This comprised a new power management system (PMS), integrated automation system (IAS), fire and gas (F&G) detection system, emergency shutdown (ESD) system, closed-circuit television (CCTV) system, a new Internet Protocol television (IPTV) entertainment system for the cabins, new engine control room (ECR) consoles and a ballast water management system (BWMS).

Drives dilemma solved

The original intention had not been to replace the ship’s existing thruster and propulsion AC drives, but to extend their lifetime by replacing broken cards and other internal components. However, it soon became apparent to HPS that this would not be in the owner’s long-term interest; they could easily have extended their lifetime for another five years, but after that it would have become increasingly problematic to carry out effective maintenance and source the necessary parts. So the decision was taken to replace them entirely with new parallel single drives.

They chose us because…

HPS really values suppliers that are versatile in terms of engineering, production and logistics, which in this case was crucial to meet the delivery deadline. Their thoughts rapidly turned to us to design and deliver the drives systems, based on our previous collaboration, their familiarity with our interfaces and way of working, and not least because our drives are very adaptable.

In HPS CEO Bengt Olav Berntsen’s own words, our people, fast response time, good interfaces and remote capability make us a great partner. In addition, our technical competence and agility allows customers like HPS to influence the trajectory of projects more easily than working with bigger organizations.

Bengt Olav also flags up a key point: the fact that we don’t make our products as cheap as possible by leaving out key functions that customers like HPS might need. He notes, for example, that our flexible software on the gate driver cards will help them integrate different types of batteries, shore charging systems and DC bus ties between different ship sections. In terms of offshore vessels, it’s best to connect two separate DC systems for added safety.

Rising to the challenge

For HPS it saved a lot of time not having to start from scratch with a new vendor for the drives, or indeed the large supplier of the existing drives. The Island Frontier was fast approaching its 10-year special survey, so fast response was vital as they needed a swift answer on lead time and cost. Fortunately, my colleague Asbjørn Halsebakke, Senior Manager Marine Concepts at The Switch, was able to drop everything and visit Island Offshore at short notice to explain why our drives were the optimal solution from a long-term financial perspective.

Moreover, HPS wanted to use the existing drives’ space on board the vessel, and our drives have similar physical dimensions to the old ones. While they did all the interface engineering, commissioning work and sea trials themselves, we successfully scaled up our own production in time to do the last-mile integration.

The work was carried out in Gibraltar, meaning the ship didn’t have to sail up to HPS’s home base in Norway. The Island Frontier typically operates off Africa, so doing the work in Island Offshore’s preferred location saved both time in transit and fuel.

On to the next job

Meanwhile, and for the same reasons, HPS has also approached us to install drives on another Island Offshore ship, the platform supply vessel (PSV) Island Condor, as part of its delivery and integration of a new battery package. The ship is undergoing conversion to an offshore construction vessel (OCV), which involves it being cut in half with a new construction module being added in the middle. Hareid Group and Myklebust Shipyard are leading the project.

HPS also have a new project signed with us using our super-fast protection devices in the ferry market to enhance the safety of DC systems. This is a very exciting project for which I am fortunate enough to be the Customer Project Manager.

Previous deliveries

Prior to these projects we worked together on the conversion of the Torghatten Nord-owned ferry Malangen from diesel electric to battery electric in 2023, which included a partial DC circuit solution. We also cooperated on a fishing trawler project for a South American owner, where HPS completely overhauled the energy system and installed our drives to extend its lifetime and make it profitable in a new market.

Because the trawler will operate in very remote locations requiring equipment that can be serviced either locally or through remote support, one particular benefit in that case was that out gate drivers are powered by programmable gain amplifiers (PGA), so all the hardware units are interchangeable. This significantly reduces the likelihood of operational downtime in the event of a component failure.

Burgeoning retrofit market

Amid a clear trend toward owners investing in modifications and maintenance of existing vessels and installations, instead of ordering new ships, HPS aims to further expand in this market together with trusted suppliers. We are well aligned with them on this ‘circular economy’ approach.

Much like myself, Bengt Olav is also a strong champion of electrification in order to use energy more efficiently and reduce losses, and he mirrors my belief that batteries, energy conversion and DC systems will become increasingly important marine solutions.

Our enduring cooperation is a perfect example of putting our values into action in real life, with a special focus on leading minds and being dynamically different. We’re both small companies that together can come up with great ideas that can have a big impact.

We certainly look forward to continuing a fruitful collaboration and I’m sure that together we can make the seas blue again.

Customer Project Manager

Kevin Østerhus

Kevin Alexander Østerhus is Customer Project Manager (CPM) at The Switch with a background in engineering. He worked as a project engineer at the company for six years before taking on his current role. Kevin has a bachelor’s in electrical automation technology and a master’s in information technology, specializing in automation and signal processing. Kevin is a father of three who finds joy in the simple moments with his family. While managing a career and family life can be demanding, he embraces the beautiful chaos of parenthood and values the time spent with his family.