Testing offshore docking station

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Franco-Swedish wind developer Airicole has developed a docking station that is intended to make it simpler and safer to board offshore wind turbines at varying wave heights in almost any type of weather. Airicole is testing and evaluating a prototype, in which an extra docking pile is attached to the wind turbine pile, with a ladder providing access between the platforms on the two piles. The prototype is being tested on a meteorological mast at the Swedish Utgrunden wind farm.

"We felt there was a need to find a better solution for docking in harsh weather conditions," says Airicole's Mikael Jakobsson. The system has been successful at wave heights of up to two metres and wind speeds exceeding 20 m/s, he adds.

The docking pile is accessed by a motor boat with a platform accessed by a ladder built onto the bow, the stem of which is equipped with a "U"-shaped bracket jutting forward at deck height. The bracket is designed to fit snugly around the docking pile, allowing the vessel to approach it from any angle through 180-degrees. Since the direction of the waves governs the angle at which a boat can approach, this makes access far easier than to a fixed docking point. Engine thrust holds the boat steady against the pile. Access to the turbine is achieved by jumping onto the docking pile platform from the boat's platform and then using the ladder to the wind turbine's main access platform.

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