Investment and collaborations drive hydrographic survey companies

Paul Boughton

Eugene McCarthy reports on how survey companies are investing heavily in new equipment and implementing strategic alliances in order to remain competitive.

Leading integrated turnkey subsea and offshore solution provider Unique Maritime Group has supplied a full package of survey equipment for a new hydrographic survey vessel, which will carry out detailed mapping of Qatar’s coastal waters.
The package includes a KONGSBERG EM 3002D dual-head multi-beam echo sounder system, a KONGSBERG EA 400 single beam echo sounder, a KONGSBERG Seapath 200 RTK system with radio telemetry ADL Vantage by Pacific Crest, a KONGSBERG MRU-5 motion reference unit, a Midas SVP by Valeport sound velocity profiler, a self-recording SVP and portable tide gauge by Valeport, Hypack and Caris post processing workstations and software.
Commenting on this key project, Ian Huggins, general manager of Unique Systems FZE said: “Our client had a very specific requirement for speed and a robust solution. We were able to work with the vessel manufacturer during the build, to equip the vessel with unique technology to work and carry out even multi-beam surveys in extremely bad sea conditions and at very high vessel speeds. Unlike other installations, there are no vibrating parts or installation protrusions, which could limit the survey speeds. Hypack software was used for data collection and processing of data and CARIS software was used for the QC check and further processing of the surveyed data.”
Meanwhile Unique System (UK), a Unique Maritime Group company, has purchased 6G acoustic positioning equipment from Sonardyne International.
The purchase was made on the final day of the Oceanology International 2012 exhibition and conference in London and is Sonardyne's fourth major order from a rental company in recent months.
The Fusion LBL 6G equipment will be added to the equipment inventory pool held at its new regional headquarters in Aberdeen and will be made available for use on survey construction projects across Europe. [Page Break]
6G products utilise Sonardyne's ultra-wideband width, digital ranging and telemetry protocols offering ease of use, reliable performance and the flexibility to reconfigure the equipment to meet the broadest possible range of subsea positioning and wireless communication applications.
Ray Hughes, md of Unique System UK, said: "This order comes at a time of significant advancement for the company. As we continue to expand and develop our European infrastructure and facilities, so too are we growing the size of our rental stock. This is our first investment in 6G technology which has been purchased in direct response to client demand for the flexibility, excellent performance and cost savings that Sonardyne's latest technology platform delivers."
BlueView Technologies and SeaTrepid International have announced a teaming agreement to deliver offshore/onshore operations support for BlueView’s line of 2D and 3D underwater imaging and measurement solutions.
BlueView is the world leader in compact acoustic imaging and measurement technology, while SeaTrepid International is a premier provider of observation and mid-range class remotely operated vehicle (ROV) services.
Under this agreement, BlueView’s field support service group (FSG) will train and certify SeaTrepid technicians on all operational aspects of its BV5000 3D mechanical scanning systems and its 2D multibeam imaging sonar. SeaTrepid technicians will be available through BlueView’s FSG to provide customers with in-field deployment and operational support to ensure project success.
SeaTrepid will provide a full range of underwater project support services including project planning, in-field BlueView equipment support, 3D point cloud processing, and generation of report deliverables. The BlueView SeaTrepid partnership will focus on support for a wide variety of underwater applications.
“We are delighted to team with SeaTrepid and expand our field support capabilities to ensure the best possible results with BlueView equipment,” said Jason Seawall, BlueView Technologies coo. “This agreement stems from years of successful joint field activities with SeaTrepid, and I look forward to working with them in this new capacity.”
Bob Christ, SeaTrepid president and ceo stated “Our field technicians have worked with BlueView’s underwater imaging and measurement systems for several years with excellent results for our customers. We look forward to becoming a premier field support organisation for BlueView’s entire line of underwater systems.”
BlueView is a leader in 2D imaging and 3D scanning sonar technology with more than 500 installed systems worldwide. The company focuses on low cost of ownership with reliable operation, exceptional service, in-person training, extensive online information, and worldwide after-sale support.
In other news, UTEC has completed factory acceptance tests and has taken delivery of an additional Teledyne Gavia AUV to expand their AUV fleet. UTEC’s fleet of 1000m-rated AUV systems are licensed for use in 67 countries from UTEC’s Houston base.
“UTEC is committed to investing in the best equipment and the most recent technology to offer our international customers the highest level of service. We continue to work closely with Teledyne Gavia and others to develop new modules and enhance the capabilities of these class leading AUVs,” said Ken Adams, UTEC’s chief technology officer.[Page Break]
Recently, UTEC formally extended its agreement with the University of Delaware, which provides access to the university’s Gavia AUV ‘DORA’ The parties intend to build upon the established relationship, now in its third year, to continue to share knowledge and benefit from increased asset availability.
“At the University of Delaware we are excited to continue our collaborations with UTEC and continue to field cutting edge technology in the hands of the best trained personnel,” said University of Delaware’s associate professor Art Trembanis, director of the coastal sediments, hyrdrodynamics, and engineering lab (CSHEL).
The AUVs incorporate many key features including: a nosecone-mounted digital stills camera and Imagenex obstacle avoidance sonar, the Inertial Navigation System T-24 IMU by Kearfott DVL, which is aided by 1200kHz Doppler Velocity Log from Teledyne RDI. Additionally both of UTEC’s AUVs have a Side Scan Sonar – dual-frequency (900-1800kHZ) by Marine Sonics Technology, and a Multi-beam Echo Sounder – Geoswath Plus by GeoAcoustics.
UTEC Survey is one of the world’s largest independent offshore survey companies providing a wide range of survey services including dimensional control, laser scanning and modeling, offshore positioning, construction support, geophysical and geotechnical surveys.
The company has offices located around the world including Houston, Aberdeen, Rio de Janeiro, Calgary, Perth, Singapore, St. John’s and Naples. In March UTEC Survey announced the opening of a new office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The new entity, which trades under the name of UTEC Survey JLT, will focus on providing UTEC a stronger presence in the Middle East and Caspian regions.
Martin O’Carroll, ceo of UTEC International, stated “The opening of the Dubai office is an important addition for the UTEC group of companies. Our business in the region continues to develop and the opening of the Dubai office will further enhance our presence and our ability to provide local expertise to our Middle East customers.”
Aspect Surveys has purchased its third multibeam system, a second R2Sonic wideband multibeam echosounder, having originally bought the first of its kind in the UK.
R2Sonic's system offers high-performance capabilities and a capacity to produce exceptionally high resolution data quality. The system is lightweight, portable and of compact design which facilitates ease of mobilisation within the company’s own survey vessels.
The R2Sonic system, combined with CODA F185+R RTK GPS inertial navigation system, will be utilised on a variety of survey projects and water depths can be accurately recorded between 0.5m - 500m, due to the wideband 200kHz - 400kHz selectable frequency range of the system.
The company has also taken delivery of the new 16.5m survey vessel Vigilance. The vessel has an onboard wet-lab and separate survey suite equipped to power laptop computers, navigation systems, single beam or multibeam echosounder as well as a variety of other sensors. With ample room in the cabin for personnel and equipment, survey works can continue in adverse weather conditions.
Aspect says that Vigilance will allow increased survey extents, efficient and cost-effective mobilisation, reduced periods of weather related downtime and increased multiple sensor deployment configurations.[Page Break]
Maintenance developments

To further expand its offshore service capabilities, Cargotec has established a new offshore service centre in Houston, Texas, which provides repair, upgrades and systems modernisations vessels, rigs and platform operators.
The centre has a hydraulic test bed, which enables the repair of winches, hydraulic cylinders, hydraulic pumps and motors, valves and swing drive units. It can also support blow out preventer (BOP) crane upgrades, pipe handling cranes and racking systems, tensioning cylinders, as well as active heave-compensated knuckle boom cranes, davits and module handling systems.
“Cargotec’s offshore service staff in the US Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Mexico have the experience needed to satisfy the most demanding of service requirements,” says Pat Drake, regional manager, offshore services in the Americas. “Cargotec’s service management is committed to grow with additional industry developments, as exploration moves further offshore, in deeper water depths and in more challenging operating environments.”
Cargotec USA also provides specialist proof load testing solutions for cranes, general lifting equipment and structures. “This service provides customers not only with competent crane inspection, but with safe and cost effective load test services,” says Drake.
Offshore service locations in the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Mexico are part of Cargotec’s global network of around 60 marine service stations. “These are staffed with technicians and service engineers. Although this global service presence is important to support an ever expanding multi-national customer base, of equal importance is the development of a trained and qualified technical service staff with field-earned experience, necessary to service the local market’s needs,” added Drake.[Page Break]
MMT awarded frame agreement by Statoil Offshore

MMT has been awarded a frame agreement by Statoil Offshore. The agreement consists of survey services such as pipeline surveys, seabed mapping surveys, inspections, geotechnical survey support, and environmental survey support that will be conducted worldwide. This is a four-year contract with an option of an additional two years.
MMT will operate an ROV, ROTV, Tow fish and vessel based survey sensors under this agreement. The work will mainly be performed in the North Sea. MMT has qualified six vessels in the agreement; these vessels include those owned and operated by MMT as well as vessels that MMT will charter from close associates.
The company has recently completed subsea surveys for Statoil in the near shore frame agreement awarded during the summer of 2011. “We believe that the awards of these two frame agreements are partly a result of our hard work to improve and develop the health, safety, environment and quality work. We will continue to improve our workflows and we will have the same high requirements on our sub-contractors,” said a company statement.
MMT Group has also announced ownership of a Kongsberg EM2040D. The EM2040 dual head system has recently been installed on MMT’s survey and ROV vessel IceBeam. The company says that this is the first highly developed multibeam echo sounder to combine all of the advanced features of deep water echo sounders to the near-bottom sounding environment.

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