Ampelmann: a Revolution in Offshore Access

Transferring marine personnel to and from offshore facilities such as oil platforms or wind turbines is a risky and expensive business. The TU Delft has developed a six-legged hydraulic motion compensation platform, which makes offshore access much easier and faster. 

Accessibility of structures at open sea is a major issue within the offshore industry. Personnel is usually transported to offshore facilities either by boat or helicopter, but bad weather and high waves can make it impossible to get onto or off a platform. In the past, transport by helicopter has already proven to be dangerous, and besides the risk, the costs involved are high. The ongoing motion of the sea means ship-based access is difficult and hazardous, as marine personnel have to step from a moving vessel onto a fixed platform or vice-versa. TU Delft researchers developed the so-called Ampelmann, a hydraulic ship-based platform that compensates the vessel’s motions, creating safe offshore access.

The technology of the Ampelmann platform is based on flight simulation technology used in the aerospace industry. Flight simulators have six hydraulic legs that together can create motion with six degrees of freedom: forward/backward, up/down and left/right, combined with rotation about three perpendicular axes, independent of each other. The Ampelmann combines this technique with accurate motion sensors and intelligent controls that measure even the tiniest movements of the ship they are on, allowing the platform to compensate all wave-induced motion of the ship. As a result, the platform will remain motionless onboard a ship at open sea. From the motionless transfer deck, personnel can safely access any offshore structure through a telescopic access bridge. We have tested the Ampelmann extensively, and in December 2007 successfully used the platform to transfer people from a ship onto an offshore structure in the Shell-owned offshore wind farm at Egmond aan Zee in the Netherlands.

Practical use
As the innovative wave-compensating transfer platform does not require any adaptation to either the offshore structure or the ship, it can be used ‘plug & play’, even on small vessels. Therefore, it does indeed offer the industry a viable and attractive alternative to the existing means of offshore access. The overwhelming international interest in the Ampelmann has recently led the project team to launch the Ampelmann Company LTD, one of the TU Delft’s promising spin-off companies. Production of the first commercially available Ampelmanns is set to start in 2008.

For the development of the Ampelmann, we closely cooperated with partners from within the industry, such as Shell, and other TU Delft departments, such as the International Research Institute for Simulation, Motion and Navigation (SIMONA) and the Delft Center for Systems and Control. 


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