Walk to work vessel Kasteelborg christened in Den Helder

On Thursday 25 October 2018, the second “walk-to-work” vessel in Wagenborg Offshore’s fleet received its official name at the Nieuwediep quayside in the Dutch port of Den Helder. The Kasteelborg – a “Walk-to-Work Emergency Response and Rescue Vessel” – was named by Marjan van Loon, President and CEO of Shell Netherlands. “This is the first time I’ve named a ship, but I’m enough of a sailing enthusiast to realise that this is a very special moment. And that’s what it feels like too.”

The Kasteelborg is an excellent example, in many ways, of the power of cooperation. It continues an ancient Dutch tradition of combining knowledge and strength in the maritime sector. Without cooperation between the carpenter, the sailmaker, the financier, and the trader, the Dutch language wouldn’t have the term “VOC-mentaliteit” (referring to the Dutch East India Company’s business acumen) and the country’s “Golden Age” (the seventeenth century) would have been a lot less golden. The Dutch system of consensus-based decision-making –”poldering” – is centuries old, and it’s still a characteristic feature of the maritime sector. As Marjan van Loon put it: “Koninklijke Niestern Sander, Wagenborg, Barge Master, Ampelmann, NAM, Shell, and ExxonMobil have got together to achieve shared success.”

“Koninklijke Niestern Sander, Wagenborg, Barge Master, Ampelmann, NAM, Shell, and ExxonMobil have got together to achieve shared success.”

Building on the success of the Kroonborg

When the Kroonborg was named three years ago, Gerald Schotman (former director of the NAM oil and gas company) compared it to a Swiss Army knife – compact, practical, and equipped with all kinds of technical gadgets, making it possible to successfully tackle many different jobs. The Kroonborg has proved itself in recent years, both operationally and technologically, as can be seen from the figures: more than 60,000 people have been transferred from the vessel, and its crane has carried out more than 3000 successful lifting operations. 

The Kasteelborg: a logical successor

The Kasteelborg is of a comparable size to the Kroonborg, but its work will be different. The Kasteelborg will be used mainly for urgent work and ad hoc interventions, such as starting up installations and carrying out small-scale corrective maintenance. That focus will allow the Kroonborg to focus on larger scheduled maintenance programmes. The Kasteelborg is a logical second step and sequel to the Kroonborg. Both ships will be operating from Den Helder, given that port’s strategic position in relation to the southern area of the North Sea. 

The North Sea in transition

The entry into service of the Kasteelborg illustrates the way both the world of energy and the North Sea itself are in a process of transition. At the same time, it underlines the way that ingenuity and cooperation are key concepts for being and remaining successful, something that’s necessary to keep up with current developments in the North Sea. It’s clear that the North Sea is now past its peak in terms of oil and gas extraction. The equipment and infrastructure now need to adapt to the lower quantities involved. Renovation and maintenance therefore remain necessary, but at lower cost. Moreover, oil and gas extraction in the North Sea has to be made cleaner. The Paris climate agreement applies to everyone, every industry, and every place in the world. This means that changes will be necessary to a great number of different activities. For the time being, the North Sea will remain an important source of energy in the form of oil and gas. However, wind energy will play an increasing, role with wind farms being built out in the North Sea on an unprecedented scale.

Cleaner and less harmful for the environment

The Kroonborg and now also the Kasteelborg are ready to tackle future developments. They represent a smart response to changing circumstances, i.e. the need for renovation and maintenance at lower cost. Both ships are what are called “walk-to-work” vessels, meaning that the number of costly and time-consuming helicopter flights can be reduced to a minimum. Necessary cargo transport by ship can also be minimised, because the sister ships also have this functionality. Walk-to-work vessels are therefore not just cheaper to operate but are also cleaner and less harmful for the environment. That’s because they perform far better than a helicopter in terms of fuel consumption and also of course because they run on GTL, a synthetic fuel produced from natural gas, which is much cleaner than the better-known alternatives such as diesel or petrol. 

Doing business means looking ahead

The Kroonborg and Kasteelborg “Swiss Army knives” are equipped for work that goes beyond the traditional offshore work in the oil and gas industry. That flexibility makes it possible to already achieve benefits today when the first North Sea wind farms are being constructed and need to be maintained. Quite a few are already planned, but Shell’s ambitions go much further. As Marjan van Loon puts it: “In these plans, the North Sea really must become the new energy garden of the Netherlands, with which to feed our increasing electricity consumption.” With the Kroonborg and the Kasteelborg, Wagenborg and Shell are looking ahead to making an active contribution to the offshore wind industry. The saying goes that “governing means looking ahead”. The Kasteelborg shows that that principle can be viewed more broadly: doing business means looking ahead.

Dutch prosperity

The North Sea has been a source of prosperity and energy for the Netherlands for centuries – in a very basic way by providing fish to feed us and a trade highway for doing business with faraway places, but also very directly through the extraction of oil and gas. Putting the Kasteelborg into services means building on the country’s maritime tradition with a ship which once more combines innovation from several different parties. This is a vessel that can serve as an example for the importance of innovation and successful cooperation, cooperation that has produced a whole that is greater than just the sum of its parts. That’s the basis for prosperity – Dutch prosperity – in the past, in the present, and in the future too. γ