British Maritime Technology’s (BMT) subsidiary BMT Shipdesign had won the contract to design a revolutionary multi-role oil field support vessel. Designated SWIMSS (Shallow Water, Ice Management, Supply and Standby) the vessel will be used in the Kashagan field, in the Caspian Sea off the coast of Kazakhstan. BMT Shipdesign is working with Ulstein Verft for the Scottish offshore company BUE Marine Ltd. Preliminary design work began in August 2001 and the vessel will arrive in the Caspian Sea in the middle of November 2002.
There are several design challenges which make this project unique. The water around the Kashagan field is very shallow and, while in the summer the weather is very hot, in the winter the sea freezes over. To account for this the vessel must be able to operate at air temperatures ranging from plus 40° C to minus 30° C, sea temperatures ranging from minus 1°C to 32°C and break ice up to 60 cm thick ahead and 1m astern. The draught must not exceed 4 metres under normal operation and 2.5 metres when icebreaking in shallow water.
The building and delivery of the vessel also pose huge challenges for the project team. The entire hull, with the exception of the superstructure, will be built in Poland and will be towed to Ulstein Verft at Ulsteinvik for outfitting. Once outfitted the vessel will be transported through Russia’s canal system to arrive in the Caspian Sea in September 2002. Tight project timescales must be adhered to since the canals close for the winter in October each year.