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Marine-i helps Buoyant Works with a unique new product for the offshore industry

Buoyant Works Ltd is a small, specialist marine company which was set up in 2017 and is based in Saltash, Cornwall. Founder and Managing Director Andrew Wickham has many years of experience in the marine industry, particularly in the design and manufacture of fenders for service vessels.

Buoyant Works has created a completely new product for the offshore industry, called Windshield. It is designed to deal with some specific problems that occur during the maintenance of wind turbines, as Andrew explains:

“When a service vessel performs a wind turbine crew transfer operation, it has to force itself against the two landing piles and try to hold itself in a stable position while the maintenance crew disembark on to the turbine’s access ladder. This can cause a number of issues. First, it can be very difficult to hold the boat steady, particularly in choppy seas. Second, transferring the crew across to the tower ladder can be a hazardous process. Third, the contact between the vessel and the landing piles causes abrasion damage, which can lead to corrosion issues and extra maintenance costs. Fourth, the larger vessels being used today increase the chances of structural damage to the landing piles.

“Windshield is a protection system that can be fitted to the landing piles. It is made from high performance polymers and has a ‘high grip’ surface. The energy absorbing properties of its design mean that there is less damage to the landing piles, while the improved grip makes it much easier for the service vessel to stabilise itself – which in turn means a safer transfer procedure for the crew. An additional benefit is that this material is less susceptible to marine growth and ‘soiling’, which again can extend the life of the landing piles.”

Andrew engaged with the team at Marine-i to get help and advice with all the testing that was required to bring the Windshield product to market:

“There is nothing like Windshield currently on the market, so we have already put patent applications in hand. It has been great to have the input of the Marine-i team, who have been very helpful with project planning and have acted as a useful sounding board to develop the business strategy and discuss the future potential of the product. The team are always available, very flexible and, of course, they have excellent knowledge of the marine technology industry – so they understand the challenges that we face.

“Marine-i have put us in touch with the team at Plymouth University so that we can utilise their resources, as well as using their facilities for some of our materials testing. Naturally, with a product like this, carrying out rigorous materials testing and proof of concept is absolutely critical.

“The key stage in the project this summer will be to conduct sea trials on a wind turbine with a full-size prototype. For this we are planning to use a wind turbine or meteorological mast located off the coast at Blyth, which are operated by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, a partner of the Marine-i programme. ORE Catapult has also facilitated introductions to developers, vessel operators and the supply chain to support my market analysis”

Andrew adds: “We plan to go into production with Windshield by the end of 2018 and we believe our innovative product has the potential to reach a huge worldwide market. It can be retro-fitted to existing wind turbine structures and can also lead to applications for the oil and gas industries in future. The support from Marine-i is proving invaluable in helping take this innovation from concept to commercialisation”