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Helicopter Operations for Offshore Ships

Final JIP Proposal

Version 6.0
November 2010
Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010
Helicopter Operations for Offshore Ships

Final JIP Proposal

Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

Helicopter services have been used by the offshore industry for decades. Traditionally
the offshore production platforms were fixed. For drilling, installation and work-over large
and stable semi submersibles were deployed. Helicopter operations could be conducted
on such platforms, which are hardly affected by wave induced motions.

The current deepwater and marginal field developments and the available technology
have resulted in the use of floating production units such as FPSO’s, TLP’s and Spars
as well as moderately sized mono hull vessels for support services such as installation,
well intervention, seismic and survey work or other sub-sea activities. All these floating
units exhibit wave induced motions, which can be severe due to resonant roll (no-
heading control), swells or high seas.

As the activities of these vessels require permanent station keeping or tracking for
extended periods, logistics of crew, equipment and stores heavily depend on helicopter
transport. This implicates that helicopters have to approach, maintain position on deck
and depart from vessels exhibiting wave induced motions. Helicopters are also providing
emergency services in case of casualties and evacuations (e.g. hurricanes in the GoM).
If for some reason a helicopter cannot be operated the vessel has to rely on ship to ship
transits or has to stop its operation and go to shore. Therefore heli-operations are crucial
for the safety and economy of these offshore floaters and vessels.

In countries around the North Sea, Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) and helicopter
operators have agreed on limits for safe operation of helicopters to floating offshore
vessels. In Norway, the helicopter operators (CHC and Norsk Helicopter) are operating
under a strict regime; for “small” vessels; helicopters are only allowed to land and
remain on deck if pitch and roll angles are less than 2
and the average heave rate of
the largest wave is less than 1m/s for the last 20 minutes. Since the introduction of this
regime, no major helicopter deck accidents have occurred offshore Norway. At the same
time it is noted that this restriction is limiting several offshore operations in terms of
logistics and planning. In the UK the landing limits currently in use are based on a
maximum heave value of 5m double amplitude but operators have argued for the
introduction of heave rate based limits such as the “Norwegian Method”. The criteria
currently in use are based on old empirical data and not supported by scientific work.
Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010
Often helicopter services cannot be deployed and are delayed for several days to the
point that the vessel has to stop offshore operations and go into harbour herself for crew
changes and supplies.

In the coming decades offshore energy production will become more and more
dependent on helicopter operations. Not only will oil and gas production be more and
more based on floaters, these floaters will also be deployed in more remote harsh and
even arctic conditions (Snøvit, Shtokman). At the same time for offloading, installation,
early well-testing & workover relative small vessels will be used. For offshore wind
turbine parks access by helicopter will be essential for maintenance and inspection.

As mentioned, since the introduction of this regime in Norway no major helicopter
accidents have occurred. On the other hand the criteria used are lacking rational basis;
critical parameters such as helideck accelerations and cross-wind components are not
included in the regulations. Therefore the current criteria are not necessarily
conservative from a safety point of view. A workability analysis for an 80 m light well
intervention vessel operating offshore Norway, showed that the downtime for helicopter
operations in winter time assuming good visibility varied between 70 and 90%
depending on the relative wave direction. This is unacceptable for an economic
operation of this vessel as it requires the vessel to disconnect riser systems and go to
port herself on a regular basis.

In other parts of the world as well as on navy vessels, helicopters are operated safely
under much wider workability envelopes. E.g. in the Royal Netherlands Navy helicopters
are safely operated up to 20 degrees of roll motion. Military helicopters however are
guided by a flight intendant on deck and latched onto the helideck whereas civil
helicopters are standing on deck with a running rotor which makes them sensitive for
transverse accelerations and wind gusts. Moreover offshore production vessels normally
produce high temperature exhaust gases which may significantly reducing the heli-jet.
Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

As helicopter services form a critical link in offshore logistics and safety is top priority in
all offshore operations, there is a need for a better physical understanding on offshore
helicopter operations especially in relation to (small) ships to optimise these services. It
is noted that safety is and will be top priority in all operations of the oil and gas industry
of NW Europe.

In this respect the following questions are relevant:
1. What are the current regulations and operational limits for offshore helicopter
operations in NW Europe both in the civil industry (offshore) and in the defence
sector (navies)?
2. Can wider operational envelopes for helicopters be developed, maintained or
increased by the present high safety level?
3. Which are the dominant physical parameters involved in each of the phases of
helicopter operations (landing, parking and take-off)?
4. Can the 3-D turbulent windfield around the heli-deck including possible exhaust
gases be predicted by numerical models?
5. How can design of ships and heli-decks contribute to safety and workability of
helicopter operations?
6. Can a rational methodology toward the development and acceptance of operational
envelopes/criteria be developed?
7. Can the offshore vessels be categorised in terms of heli-platform motions and wind
conditions or should criteria be based on absolute Meteo and motion data?
8. Can advisory systems be (further) developed to assist the helicopter pilot?
9. Can the physical understanding be captured in numerical models i.e. a helicopter-
ship simulator for training of pilots and testing of systems?

In the UK, the CAA and WS Atkins have been working on several of the above issues to
replace existing operational criteria with new criteria that are based on the
understanding of helicopter stability on heli-decks. This work is supported with some
field data and has resulted in an operational envelope approach which is based on a
Motion Severity Index, a predictive measure of the maximum motions (MMS; Measure
for Motion Severity) in the next 10 minutes, and the Wind Severity Index, a predictive
measure of the wind speed.
The safe operational envelope is then defined as the area under a curve (the
“limiting curve”, as shown below:
Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

This work has also identified the need for further investigations such as:
Wind field in particular the wind updraft around heli-decks of ships;
The dispersion of high temperature exhaust gases produces by ship engines, gas
turbines and flares.
Long term heli-deck motions (accelerations and inclinations) and statistics of MMS in
relation to vessel design and heli-deck location;
Landing operation and the use of heli-ship simulators;
Verification of the helicopter reaction forces ;
Extension of the operational envelopes for different helicopters;
Testing of newly developed operational criteria;

The present R&D proposal aims to investigate and resolve the issues presented taking
advantage of the insight and results of the work already performed in the UK and in
other sectors such as the defence industry. This proposal is the result of discussion with
UK CAA, NO-CAA and NL-CAA, Shell, Statoil, Petrobras, Kongsberg, Bayards, NLR
and Atkins. MARIN has been invited to organise this initiative, named HELIOS. The
work will be conducted as a Joint Industry Project with participation of oil companies,
vessel operators, helicopter operators, equipment suppliers, CAA’s and R&D
organisations. This participation ensures the required technical expertise, operational
experience and enables a common understanding and implementation of the results.

The partnership conducting the work in this JIP consists of MARIN, Atkins, NLR and
Kongsberg. The work will be conducted in close contact and full support by the aviation
authorities of UK, Norway and The Netherlands. UK-CAA has confirmed that results of
prior work by Atkins for the Helicopter Safety Committee will be made available to this

Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

The proposed study is aiming at resolving the issues mentioned in the previous section.

More specific this study should result in the following:
1. Report on current practice of helicopter operations on board offshore vessels
including the relevant CAA regulations and flight procedures of the helicopter
operators in the various countries and sectors;
2. Insight in the physics related to helicopter operations in relation to offshore ships
supported by scientific results from numerical, experimental and full scale tests;
3. Methodology for assessment of operational envelopes / workability criteria;
4. Recommendations for design of ships and heli-decks;
5. Recommendations for systems improving safety and workability;
6. Feasibility assessment of a helicopter-ship simulator for training and testing.

Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

The tasks to be conducted in this pilot study are directly related to the required

1. Current Practice
Review of the existing practice and regulations in NW Europe and other areas. I.e. the
rules and regulations issued by the national aviation authorities, EASA, IVW and the
practice in offshore and navy in Norway, UK and Netherlands. This work includes
interviews with regulatory bodies and offshore helicopter operators in these countries.

2. Physical Understanding
Investigation into the physical parameters dominating the dynamic behaviour and safety
of helicopters when operating for offshore vessels. This includes the published results,
previous model tests and documented trials offshore. This task comprises heli landing,
helicopter stability on deck, wind field and heli-deck motions.

Helicopter landing
A helicopter approaching the vessel for landing is subject to the wind field around the
heli-deck. The local wind velocity and turbulence is strongly dependent on the wind-
climate, the vessel super structures and the location of the heli-deck . Another important
factor for the heli-pilot are motions of the helideck which basically are in 6 degrees of
freedom. In particular for high level bow mounted heli-decks these motions are
dominated by roll and pitch of the vessel. Landing on such heli-deck the pilot also
suffers from a lack of view on the vessel motions.

Helicopter stability
As helicopters on offshore vessels are normally not secured to the deck and keep their
rotors running with a minimum pitch setting, the stability of the helicopter with respect to
sliding and tipping is a main concern. Research has shown that the lift provided by the
rotor is a significant part of the weight and thus a destabilizing factor. This lift increases
with speed and rotor disc inclination as well as by updrafts.

Deck accelerations rather than the currently used static roll and pitch angles are the
crucial factors in this stability. The “Measure of Motion Severity” such as proposed in the
UK is defined as the ratio of the total accelerations in the horizontal directions and
normal to the deck. This “pendulum” angle thus includes the inertial accelerations which
are crucial for the stability. This concept will be evaluated in detail and existing heli-
stability model developed for Super puma and Sikorsky -76, will be refined and extended
for other types of helicopters.
Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

Wind field
To gain further insight in the wind field around heli-decks on board floaters and ships,
CFD modelling will be applied. The numerical analysis will provide data on the unsteady
wind conditions i.e. the mean wind velocity and turbulence fields including the wind
updraft which is important for helicopter stability.

On board offshore ships and FPSO’s exhaust gases produced by the ships engines, gas
turbines and flares are entering the wind field around the heli-deck. This a potential
hazard for helicopter operations as the thrust of the jet engine is strongly reduced by the
intake of high temperature exhaust gases.

For the evaluation of helicopter approach, landing and stability an accurate prediction of
the 3-D wind field around the heli-deck is essential. So-far such predictions have been
made by wind tunnel tests and numerical analysis. For numerical analysis normally
Reynolds Averaged Navier Stokes (RANS) CFD-codes are used. These codes however
only solve the station airy mean flow and the effect of all vortices (eddies) on the flow is
modelled by turbulence model. Besides the “steady RANS” also unsteady RANS or
URANS is used for many maritime applications.

For wind flow around complex objects however, which is characterised by very
strong turbulence (Reynolds numbers up to 10
) and massive separation with a
wide turbulence spectrum, URANS should not be used. The reason is that URANS
is not a simulation of turbulence, but only of its statistics. In gas concentration RANS
models can easily give errors up to 300% and even 500% which is completely

To obtain accurate simulations of the time-dependent flow over a heli-deck including the
actual simulation of vortices and gas concentrations, a new CFD model will be
developed. This model will be based on Large Eddy Simulation (LES) technique which
models only the eddies that are larger than the grid size. The effect of subgrid-scale
vortices will still simulated by a turbulence model.
Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010
While the LES method itself is rather old, its application to atmospheric wind flow around
bluff bodies such as ships is new. The effect of LES compared with RANS is clearly
demonstrated by the adjacent figure (simulations by TU-E). Further details are given in
Appendix I.

Flow direction Flow direction
(a) RANS (b) LES
Flow direction Flow direction Flow direction Flow direction
(a) RANS (b) LES

The goal of the LES CFD simulations in HELIOS is to provide the distribution in time and
space of the relevant flow parameters to support helicopter operations. These flow
parameters are: mean wind speed, turbulence, pressure, temperature and exhaust gas
concentration. To this extent, this part of the HELIOS project consists of two research
(1) Fundamental research: Optimising LES and/or hybrid LES/RANS for high-Reynolds
number flow around ship configurations as a function of atmospheric boundary
layer inflow conditions, geometric model representation, grid resolution, near-wall
modelling and subgrid-scale modelling. Validation of simulations with these different
parameters is performed by comparison of the simulation results with high-quality
wind tunnel measurements. If necessary, new near-wall and/or subgrid-scale
models will be developed and tested. The result is an extensive set of “Best
Practice Guidelines” as a tool for future simulations. The fundamental research
component provides the necessary basis for the success of the applied research
(2) Applied research: Application of CFD LES based on the developed Best Practice
Guidelines for specific ship and helicopter deck configurations to provide insight in
the wind conditions and to provide the boundary conditions for the other research
tasks within the HELIOS project, including the Heli-Ship-Simulator.

The work on the LES CFD developments will be conducted by TU-Eindhoven in a
separately funded project. HELIOS J IP Supports this work with dedicated
windtunnel tests for verification and validation of the numerical model. The
results will be shared with the HELIOS Participants.

Heli-deck motions
The motions of the heli-deck are obviously the dominating factors for helicopter
operations offshore. The Measure for Motion Severity to be established for the
helicopter landing and stability on deck is strongly dependent on the ship size, loading
condition and stability as well as on the location of the heli-deck. From earlier research it
is known that the distribution of the MMS does not follow the commonly used Raleigh-
distribution for ship motions. For the prediction of the maximum values on the basis of a
limited period of motion records (typically 20 minutes), therefore the long term statistics
have to be investigated for various ship types and heli-deck locations and a reliable
extrapolation method has to be developed. The procedure will be checked by means of
Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010
heli-deck motions recorded over a long period on board a offshore support vessel in
operation on the North Sea. Based on the new MMS prediction method a workability
analysis will be applied for various ship types and heli-deck locations.

3. Methodology for operational envelope
Derivation of a rational approach to establish operational criteria and workability
envelopes. This work will be based on the outcome of Task 1 and 2. The methodology
will include all phases of the helicopter operation i.e.: Approach of the vessel, Landing,
On deck stability and Departure.
Specifically use will be made of the existing procedures as issued by HCA for helicopter
approach, NLR for disturbed wind field approaches and SAIF (Ship Air Interface
Framework) in UK.

In particular the work conducted in the UK on helicopter stability and the proposal for
operational envelopes based on a Motion Severity Index and a Wind Severity Index
(The so-called MSI/WSI-limits) will be incorporated in this work. The UK-CAA has
confirmed to join Helios and to share results from their previous research. This forms a
solid basis for further work in HELIOS.

Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

4. Ship Design, Systems & Operations
Design of ship, heli-deck, systems and the actual operation of the vessel can contribute
significantly to the workability and safety of helicopter operations. For example one of
the major challenges for a heli-pilot is to land safely without any ship motion reference
when the heli-deck is mounted on the bow and the heli has to land nose forward. A
reference frame in front of the pilot can contribute is such situations. Also data
transmission between vessel and heli to provide info on Meteo, vessel motions and
relative speeds/distance could be an improvement. In this task potential improvements
will developed and evaluated.

5. Heli-Ship-Simulator
Recently a helicopter-ship simulator (Helicopter Pilot Station) for training of navy
operations has been developed by NLR. This simulator will be used for developing and
testing operating procedures and safety-critical systems for offshore vessels.
The simulator should resemble the governing parameters and behaviour of helicopter
and vessel including advisory systems such as heli-deck monitoring and pilot guidance.

6. Trials (Phase II)
In Phase II of the JIP full scale trials with helicopters approaching, landing, standing on
deck, and taking off from offshore vessel to verify and demonstrate the methodology
developed in Task 3 will be conducted. For these trials extensive instrumentation of
helicopter and heli-deck will be deployed. Results of earlier trials such as conducted in
the UK in recent years will be evaluated.
Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010
The detailed plan for the Phase II trials will be drawn up after completion of Task 2 and
3. For these trials use will be made of helicopters and ships preferably operated by
participating companies. The trials will be conducted on airports, on an oscillating
platform (Test Pilot School Southampton) and on an offshore vessel.

7. Implementation & evaluation
Results of the above tasks will be evaluated and used to formulate:
Recommendations for design of vessels, heli-decks, systems and operations to
improve safety and economy of heli-operations;
Recommendations for the operational criteria for helicopter operations on offshore

Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

The proposed work will be conducted on behalf of companies and organisations
participating in the HELIOS Joint Industry Project by the following partnership:
MARIN; Maritime Research Institute Netherlands;
Kongsberg; Control system integrators and suppliers, Norway;
NLR; National Aerospace Laboratory, Netherlands;
Atkins; Engineering company based in UK;

The JIP will be conducted as a joint Public-Private R&D project in which all stakeholders
are represented; in particular the following organisations:
Aviation authorities;
Oil companies;
Offshore contractors;
Vessel operators;
Helicopter operators;
Suppliers of relevant equipment.

The UK-CAA, No-CAA and NL-CAA have confirmed their support of this project and are
prepared to share results of their research work in this field with the HELIOS-JIP.

With these stakeholders directly involved in the project, the required expertise and
operational experience will be available for the project at the same time this group
enables the implementation of the findings in both the regulations and in the operations.
The work will be conducted in close co-operation with partners and participating
companies and the civil aviation authorities with input from the relevant helicopter
operators. MARIN will be the main contractor for this project and will subcontract the
relevant sub tasks.

Meetings will be held every 6 months and hosted by FPSO JIP Week or by one of the

Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010
The budget estimate for the above work is as follows:

Task Partner Cost in
1 Current Practice

Physical Understanding
Helicopter landing
Helicopter stability
Wind tunnel tests for LES CFD valid.
Heli-deck motions & workability model


3 Methodology for operational envelopes
4 Ship, design, systems & operation
5 Tests on Heli-Ship-Simulator
Best Practice
Recommendations Rules & Regulations
Marin, NLR,
CAA’s 54,000.-
Subtotal Phase I

7 Trials (Phase II)
8 Implementation & Evaluation
CAAs/ 20,000.-
9 Management
10 Contingency

The work plan budgets for the each partner are as follows:

Budget Phase I
Budget estimate
Phase II [euro]
243,000.- 150,000.-
220,000.- 150,000.-
60,000.- 100,000.-
30,000.- 100,000.-
Total 218,000.- 553,000.-

The HELIOS proposal is supported by the Dutch Agentschap NL Maritime
Innovation Program with a contribution of 240 keuro. This funding has already
been confirmed by MIP to MARIN in October 2010.
Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

Participation fee /year
Oil companies
Marin & NLR
Other Participants

Based on the confirmations of the CAA’s in UK, Norway and The Netherlands and the
interests of the involved oil companies, vessel operators, heli-operators and equipment
suppliers we expect the following contributions to meet the required budget estimate.

Contribution [euro]
AgentschapNL MIP 240,000.-
3 CAAs 36,000.-
3 Oil companies 243,000.-
8 other companies 312,000.-
Marin & NLR 144,000.-
Atkins & Kongsberg 78,000.-

Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

The following will be delivered to the client:
Report on current practice of helicopter operations on board ships including the
relevant regulations in the various countries and sectors;
Report explaining the physics related to helicopter operations on offshore ships;
Report on methodology for assessment of operational envelopes / workability
Report on heli-deck motions, long term statistics of the Motion Severity Index and
workability analysis for various ships types and heli-deck locations.
Report on evaluation of vessel design, systems and operations contributions;
Report on helicopter-ship simulator testing;
Report with Recommended Practice;
o Vessel design, systems & operations
o Helicopter-vessel criteria
o Simulator training and testing
Report on Offshore heli trials;
Executive Summary of the HELIOS project.


The HELIOS project will start in March 2011 and will be completed by December 2013.
The Kick-off meeting is scheduled on March 22, 2011 during the 26
FPSO JIP Week in
Monaco. To register for the meeting please visit

Proposal No. 22365-1-TM

November 2010

This outline proposal should be regarded as preliminary JIP proposal. The proposal will
be updated after further discussion with partners and potential participants. Cost figures
given are only for budget estimate. Participation in the HELIOS JIP is confirmed by
signing the HELIOS JIP Participation Agreement with Marin.

Payment of the participation fee is equally distributed over the years 2011, 2012 and


For any further information please contact the undersigned.

Henk van den Boom
Head Trials & Monitoring
Phone +31 317493353
Fax +31 317 493208