ABS forms group to address safety issues on ageing global FPSO fleet

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has brought together leading companies in the FPSO sector to address the safety challenges produced by an ageing fleet.

Cidade de Maricá and Cidade de Saquarema FPSOs; Source: SBM Offshore

According to data by ABS, more than half of FPSO-type vessels are over 30 years old and a quarter are over 40 years old.

The working group, consisting of Chevron, Shell Trading, Petrobras, MODEC, and SBM Offshore as well as The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Registry, and the U.S Coast Guard 8th District, led by ABS has already seen the creation of five joint industry projects aimed at using technology to tackle a range of FPSO safety issues.

The joint industry projects will tackle composite materials repairs for offshore structures, life extension of wire ropes, gauging management software, applications of photogrammetry and 3D Lidar laser scanning, and the role of artificial intelligence in corrosion analysis.

Christopher J. Wiernicki, ABS chairman, president, and CEO, said: “The offshore industry is faced with an evolving risk profile, with opportunities to enhance protocols and systems to address these risks.

With almost 60 per cent of the global operating fleet of FPSOs classed by ABS, we are committed to addressing these issues and ensuring the ABS-classed fleet remains the safest and best-performing fleet in the world.

The challenges surrounding maintenance and structural fitness of ageing FPSOs is not just a class concern; rather, it is an industry challenge that requires the involvement and cooperation of all of the industry players”.

Maria Ximenes of Chevron Shipping added: “Protecting people and the environment, operating and executing with excellence and applying innovative technologies are the cornerstone of our business and that’s why we fully support this timely initiative from ABS”.

ABS has also developed its rules, with a significant number of changes applicable to FPSOs, both for existing units and for new facilities. These rule changes are intended to address many of the risks related to ageing FPSOs from both a design and a maintenance perspective.

Safety underpins everything we do at Shell, and we recognize that there are opportunities to proactively address risks within the FPSO fleet. We’re proud to be working with ABS and this group of industry and government leaders to develop and deploy real solutions to the maritime safety challenges in this sector”, said Karrie Trauth, SVP of shipping and maritime at Shell. 

It is worth noting that a total of 55 FPSO units in the global fleet are reaching the end of their design life in the next five years, a further five already have life extensions in place, with a further 19 currently being evaluated for life extension. The efforts of this working group will produce outcomes that assist with the evaluation and potential acceptance of life extension.

Structural integrity is one of our main process safety barriers and we all face the same challenges on ageing units. It is of utmost importance and in everybody’s interest to share experience, knowledge, ideas and that we agree on the best way forward to maintain structural integrity safely and efficiently. Therefore, we are fully committed to support and participate in this initiative“, Ivar Houthuysen, SBM Offshore assets integrity director, claims.

First-ever FPSO – Shell’s Castellon; Source: SBM Offshore

ABS classed the first FPSO vessel in U.S. waters in 1978 and continues to introduce innovations in safety with new technology that supports larger, more complex FPSOs operating in ultra-deepwater and the pre-salt region of Brazil.

Koichi Matsumiya, Modec deputy CTO, said: “We should recognize that offshore production facilities, which have only 50-years history, are not identical to ships, which have already matured over 6,000-years.

It is important to humbly learn how to maintain the integrity of our FPSOs for long design lives through ‘trial and error’ and continuously incorporate new learnings into future FPSOs, including class rules“.

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