SOLUSV outgrows the cradle for unmanned boats

The established method of using an intermediary ‘cradle’ to connect davits and unmanned surface vessels for safe launch and recovery is being challenged by a lighter weight, more cost-effective alternative – the SOLUSV.

With applications that range from minesweeping and research to environmental monitoring, inspection and surveying, the unmanned surface vessel has become a utility asset enjoying ever wider deployment across the offshore, service and naval vessel sectors.

The USV’s rise has been matched by the emergence of an intermediary ‘catcher’, ‘cage’ or ‘cradle’ that attaches the davit to the vessel itself. The cradle clamps over the USV’s central pillar to ensure that, with no one on board the boat, launch and recovery is nonetheless accomplished safely and at no risk to what is a very expensive item.

Mature and adaptable, cradles require no design modifications or additional equipment as far as the USV is concerned. Again, the strong grip placed on the USV means that handling can be supervised by a single operative with no intervention required by personnel near or on the USV, even in sea states up to 5-6. Cradle systems can also be adapted to handle Underwater Vehicles and to work with Active Heave Compensation included in the davit design.

If the ‘pros’ are well-established, there are also ‘cons’. Cradles eat up deck space and add weight – enough to become factors at the ship design stage; again, while providing an efficient solution for USVs weighing up to 4 tonnes, heavier loads can be challenging. The cradle also adds complexity to boat handling – a definite drawback for any equipment used in harsh conditions on the high seas. Avoiding shocks or other impacts during ‘docking’, for example, demands a sophisticated guidance system.

To compound its operational inflexibility, getting access to a USV that is ‘docked’ in the cradle to switch payloads or for maintenance is often difficult while removing the USV will only be  possible if the cage is ‘split’ or divided in two, which itself will demand special tools that take up deck space.

These challenges affect costs, operational efficiency and maintenance, leading a growing number of USV users to seek an alternative solution.

Urgent and frequent inquiries made to Vestdavit and H. Henriksen – two of the leading forces in advanced boat launch and recovery solutions – have driven the development of the SOLUSV hook system, a powerful challenger to the traditional cradles used in USV handling.

Used in combination with single and dual point davits, the SOLUSV includes an integrated/dual lifting hook/painter hook system for safe and easy USV launch and recovery. Patented by H. Henriksen, the solution is marketed through Vestdavit, with both companies offering through-life product support.

Approved by DNV-GL, SOLUSV uses standard H. Henriksen hooks but deploys a unique spring-loaded rope drum mounted on the USV, tuned for easy connection to the fall rope via a special soft link. The low weight and compact handling system is easy to operate and offers a plug and play solution that also demands minimal design work for the mother vessel.

Because a member of the crew needs to ‘catch’ the retrieval line, the SOLUSV is acknowledged as limited to a maximum operational window of sea state 3. However, for a wide variety of conditions,  this is a limitation counterbalanced day-in, day-out by the flexibility of added access for maintenance or payload switching.

In short, if there are pros and cons when it comes to the ‘cradle’ vs. the SOLUSV, it is also fair to say that – now, at least – the user has a choice!

For more information, contact: Atle Kalve, Development Director, +47 908 93939; atle.kalve@vestdavit.no

Safe hands from Female-led production

Earlier this year, Vestdavit took ownership of its principal assembly partner Tritec Production, gaining full control of its supply chain and establishing a stable sourcing platform for its davit systems. Based in Redzikowo, Poland and now operating as ‘Vestdavit Production’, the plant’s four most senior positions are occupied by women, which Managing Director Katarzyna Stańczyk describes as “refreshing, but not surprising”.

“My senior female colleagues and I have worked our way to the top of what is traditionally a challenging industry for women to progress in,” the Vestdavit Production MD muses. “We have achieved this through hard work and determination, but also with the support of our team. We never doubted our ability to succeed, and nor did our male colleagues.”

Women have played an integral part in Vestdavit Production’s transition from independent marine-davit manufacturer to company subdivision. Of the 70-person team led by Katarzyna, nine members are women, and four of those hold senior positions: aside from Katarzyna, who has seven years’ experience in management, Monika Pankratowicz, Anna Leśniak and Justyna Karol also run their own departments.

Like Katarzyna, Monika has significant experience in her field. She admits that reaching the top of a male-dominated environment has been challenging, but she now feels at home as Vestdavit Production’s customer service manager. Head of Finance Anna has a similar level of experience; she has worked for manufacturing facilities previously but believes that her current position provides the perfect conditions for professional development. Technical Manager Justyna, responsible for overseeing engineering projects, takes great satisfaction from working – and excelling – in a sector that some consider to be a ‘man’s world’.

Katarzyna is proud of the success that she and her colleagues have enjoyed, and she anticipates further improvement under their new owner. “Our production provides Vestdavit with a more stable source of supply, and we in turn see greater demand for our products. This gives us a platform to build on, and as we strengthen our relationship, our processes will become more and more efficient. By working together, we will promote growth throughout the organisation.”

For more information about Vestdavit Production, please contact Managing Director Katarzyna Stańczyk, Ph. +48 698 521 311

Vestdavit wins contract for US Navy Expeditionary Sea Base duo

Leading boat launch and recovery systems supplier Vestdavit will deliver the most advanced motion-compensated davits in the world to the US Navy, following orders placed with Vestdavit Inc. by General Dynamics NASSCO to equip two Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ships. The US shipbuilder’s San Diego yard will deliver ESB 6 and ESB 7, the latest in a series of ships renowned for flexibility which act as mobile sea bases to support mine countermeasure, counter-piracy, disaster-relief, crisis-response and other operations.

Vestdavit will supply one 2TDB-7000-type davit for each vessel. With a safe working load of 14,000 kilograms, the high-performance davit can handle boats of varying size and weight, including seven- and 11-metre rigid-hulled inflatable boats and the Combatant Craft Assault. The first davit system is due for delivery to ESB 6 in early 2021.

“ESB ships are built to support the US Navy on critical and potentially hazardous missions, so they need highly flexible and responsive marine davits, says Vestdavit Managing Director Rolf Andreas Wigand. “The 2TDB-7000 type will allow safe operation in much higher sea states than has been possible for the davits used on any previous ESB vessels.”

Wigand explains that the hydraulically operated overhead telescopic davits can function in both single- and dual-point configuration, with the latter mode enabling synchronised movement of the two davit arms. They also include dual independent self-levelling winches that offer hoisting/lowering speeds of up to 40m/min, an anti-pendulation system and an automatic wire hauler and shock absorbers on each arm – among other features.

Proud of his company’s longstanding relationship with the world’s largest navy, Wigand sees the new agreement as the latest endorsement of Vestdavit’s products and services: “We have worked with the US Navy for over 20 years now,” he says. “Over that time, we have proved our worth by providing tailormade davits of the highest quality. Supplying ESB ships is a great honour and outstanding recognition of our boat-handling expertise.”

Renewed selection HMS Protector

Vestdavit has brought new fast craft handling capability to HMS Protector, the only Royal Navy ship dedicated to Antarctic Patrol & Survey duties, following an order which once more saw our boat launch and recovery systems preferred for a vessel operating in the harshest conditions.

The advanced icebreaker HMS Protector provides a UK presence in the Antarctic and meets treaty obligations on inspections, hydrographical charting and in support of scientific research. As part of its latest refit, the state-of-the-art vessel has been equipped with a specially-enchanged PLR-5000 davit from Vestdavit. All seven of the davits onboard HMS Protector have been supplied by Vestdavit.

The latest davit addition is supporting missions by a newer and larger Fast Rescue Craft (FRC). The new PLR-5000 unit is fully winterized to function in line with the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters in Sea State 5 conditions. Its wide operating window is made possible by proven features supplied by Vestdavit as standard, including shock absorbers, high performance winches and a constant tension system.

In line with the Royal Navy’s exacting requirements for its harsh Antarctic operating environment, the PLR-5000 davit system supplied will be certified in accordance with DNV-GL Rules as having been designed and built to operate in extreme temperatures of -40C.

HMS Protector plays a key role in ensuring the safety of navigation and understanding the marine environment in the Antarctic,” says William Goodall, Area Sales Manager for Vestdavit in the UK. “Vestdavit is delighted to continue making a critical contribution to the Royal Navy’s commitments in unforgiving seas. Having been stationed in Antarctica during my naval career, I am well aware of the challenges presented by extreme conditions and temperatures in the operation of advanced launch and recovery systems.”

The latest order calls for the 19th PLR-5000 delivery to the Royal Navy, confirming the equipment type’s position as preferred technology for the Hydrographic Flotilla and Fishery Protection Squadron. Overall, this will also be the 30th davit supplied to the RN.

For more information contact: William Goodall, Area Sales Manager, UK, Ph. +47 46 89 56 39, e-mail: william.goodall@vestdavit.no