The world’s first daughter craft based on surface effect ship (SES) technology has started a two-month sea trial period at Vattenfall’s Horns Rev 1 and Ørsted’s Horns Rev 2 wind farms.

Supported by the Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA), a research, development and demonstration (RD&D) programme aiming to reduce the costs of offshore wind, the Sea Puffin has a surface effect ship hull form that allows developers to operate crew transfer vessels and daughter craft deployed from larger vessels in harsher weather conditions than conventional designs.

According to the Carbon Trust, the 15m long SES daughter craft uses an air cushion for active motion damping, which gives it enhanced access capabilities, helps reduce fuel consumption and improves crew comfort during transit. Its compact size further enables vessel deployment using a conventional 15-tonne davit crane fitted onto a mothership.

Designed by Norwegian company ESNA, the Sea Puffin received support from the Carbon Trust’s programme in 2016, which helped de-risk the design to improve its launch and recovery capabilities, as well as ensure its performance met the operational requirements of the developer.

Carbon Trust Offshore Wind Access Systems manager Dan Kyle Spearman said: “The rapid progress of the Sea Puffin from concept to sea trials is another great example of collaborative research and development where industry and innovators are able to partner together to deliver state of the art, relevant vessels for the future of the industry.”

ESNA naval architect and co-founder Trygve H. Espeland added that a reduction in fuel consumption would help wind farms operators to reduce emissions and the environmental footprint of O&M activities.

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The sea trials are being conducted by the vessel owner WindPartner and will aim to demonstrate that the Sea Puffin 1 can work in an operational wind farm environment in preparation for charter and full commercial operation in mid-August.

WindPartner CEO Morten Mellerud said: “The Sea Puffin Daughter Craft concept offers much more cost effective access during construction, operation and maintenance of offshore windfarms.”