Over the last five years, north east engineering and equipment supplier Houlder has responded to the growth in offshore wind opportunities by investing in local talent and resources. Today, Houlder is gaining a growing reputation for supplying innovative handling, lifting and access equipment to support windfarm construction and maintenance. As a result, it is playing a key role in the North East marine supply chain working with the main installers, operators and utility companies.
“Houlder has provided independent offshore design, analysis, engineering and project development services for over twenty-five years,” explains James Russell (pictured above). Houlder’s South Tyneside-based Director of Marine Equipment. “One of our key strengths has always been our pool of multi-disciplinary engineering talent. The fact that this is now available from a growing base in the North East is something to celebrate.”
Houlder’s multi-disciplinary teams are well qualified and experienced in the construction, operation, upgrade, conversion and repair of all nature of floating assets. This includes crew transfer vessels, offshore accommodation, cable layers and turbine installation jack ups. The company’s designers, engineers and naval architects have put their minds to solving some of offshore wind’s most taxing engineering problems in recent years. For example, the company has devised a solution to the challenge of transferring maintenance personnel between offshore vessels and turbines.
Houlder’s latest Personnel Transfer System provides an efficient and safe method of transferring people between dynamically positioned maintenance vessels and turbines. The hydraulically operated gangway provides both active and passive vessel motion compensation – creating a secure walk to work platform in seas of up to 3m significant wave height.
Key features of the transfer system include;
The Personnel Transfer System joins Houlder’s wider range of wind farm installation equipment that includes pile handling, lifting and restraining tools. The company’s ingenious ideas earned the business a recent British Engineering Excellence Award and are already supporting a wide range of offshore construction projects.
Specific examples include;
Crane Shock Absorbers that fit between a ship’s crane hook and piling hammer during foundation installation. They mitigate risk by managing runaway hammers incidents should they occur during pile driving. Absorbing the shock prevents damage to the vessel or crane and supports quick recovery and reset.
Pile upending tools that provide remote controlled hook-up and release capability. This eliminates the need for additional pile lifting points or straps providing the optimal solution where the lifting point overhangs the deck or is out of reach. They are self-contained systems with rechargeable hydraulic and electric supplies avoiding the need for additional connections or power lines during lifting operations.
Pile handling and restraining equipment that provides the horizontal restraint required to maintain turbine foundations in the vertical position during installation. These deck installed hydraulic arms and frames resist environmental forces in up to 40m of water and handle piles of up to 650t in weight and 7m in diameter.
The success of the above equipment has helped Houlder establish a thriving base in Boldon Business Park, South Tyneside. Starting with just two draughtspeople in 2010, this is now home to over thirty engineers, designers and support staff. Houlder’s growth was recognised by Smarta Business Awards last year. They named the company one of the UK’s fastest-growing companies through their Breakthrough 50 initiative. Houlder was also recognised by the Sunday Times this year as an International FastTrack 200 company. The Track 200 list, published July 12 2015, ranks Britain’s mid-market private companies with the fastest-growing international sales. Houlder’s success was based on an improvement of over 180%.
Rupert Hare, Houlder’s Chief Executive Officer commented at the time. “Houlder’s heritage in North Sea engineering, vessel design and project delivery is paying off globally. Our inclusion as an International FastTrack company will help us make the most of the opportunity this presents.”
A clear statement of international intent was made in 2014 with the opening of a Houlder office in Houston, Texas. The north east engineering company is also supporting ship design, build and supervision contracts for clients in South Korea. Singapore and the Middle East. Houlder’s marine equipment business is playing its part by targeting windfarm installation projects across Europe.
The Houlder brand’s association with entrepreneurial spirit is nothing new. The name has been associated with marine innovation since the mid-nineteenth century when the Houlder Brothers formed their shipping line. It soon became an global business shipping cargo across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for nearly a century. More recently, the company became well known for innovations in North Sea drilling and diving operations throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The company’s latest incarnation arrived in 2008 with the establishment of an employee benefit trust. This means ownership of the north east engineering business, and a certain amount of ambition, lies with Houlder employees.
“Our maritime history is helping us make the most of opportunities presented by offshore wind” concludes James Russell “However it is our forward thinking and ingenuity that is leading to growth. If you work in the North East engineering industry, these are probably attributes that you recognise.”
You can download the magazine here.