Safer Operations at Sea - Supported by Operational Simulations (SOS-SOS)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Ocean and Earth Science


Safety is a paramount consideration for offshore operators. Offshore industries, including oil and gas exploration/production, marine renewable energy and shipping, must abide by industry regulations that take into account the effects of a hostile working environment on structures and ships. The principal aim of this project is to identify a rational and practical data interrogation procedure so that realistic waves and currents can be included, along with winds and sea ice conditions, in structural analysis.

This project brings together physical oceanography and the mathematics of fluid structure interaction, to address the likely extreme loads on a selection of structures and ships, in a wide range of offshore environments. This integrated approach requires a synergistic and collaborative effort proposed here, in partnership with industrial partners concerned with marine advice and safety.

The substantial and varied datasets to be used for this analysis are obtained from state-of-the-art ocean and wave models, running in both hindcast and forecast mode. We will use data from models with "high to very high" spatial resolution, sampled at high time frequency (ranging hourly to daily), in order to capture extreme forces on structures and ships. Our innovative analysis will refine assessments of structural integrity, a matter of specific interest to ship and offshore structure classification societies. In developing the throughput and use of ocean and wave forecast data, these assessments may also be of use in real-time offshore operations, and we will develop this capability.

In summary, we will integrate high-quality hindcasts and forecasts of ocean currents, tides and waves, in a variety of environments, including the effects of sea ice in high latitudes. In this way, we will provide the best possible advice on forces and environmental conditions experienced by offshore structures and ships, for both classification and operational purposes.

Planned Impact

Through this project we will innovatively refine the environmental information available in the design and safety classification of offshore structures and ships. The indirect cost benefits are considerable, through reductions in marine losses and damages. Working in partnership with a major marine classification society, Lloyds Register, we thus anticipate impact far beyond the immediate project partners by helping to raise safety standards around the global shipping industry.

We will further develop a system for the extended use of ocean and wave forecasts in offshore operations. While providing advice ourselves, we will also act as a conduit for closer cooperation between diverse stakeholders in marine forecasting, consultancy, engineering and safety classification. The resulting synergies will drive innovation and further enhance UK competitiveness in an increasingly globalized marine sector.

By developing the evidence base for safety classification and offshore consultancy, we will help to enhance the global reputations of our project partners and hence UK economic competitiveness. Alongside economic advantages, we emphasize our contribution to industrial safety via capacity building for UK offshore industries operating in unfamiliar hostile environments and in new regions, in particular at high latitudes.


10 25 50
Description We have used output data from a recent Met Office ocean hindcast to estimate the force on hypothetical tubular-pylon structures in the seas around the UK, at high space and time resolution, due to currents and waves. We have further used North Atlantic wave forecast data from the Met Office to address cumulative hull fatigue resulting over a prolonged period.

At hourly intervals for a year, and at a spatial resolution of around 7 km, initial results suggest that waves dominate extreme forces in shallow water, such as the North Sea, while mean ocean currents are relatively more important in deep water, such as along the shelf break between the shelf sea and the deep Atlantic. For the wider North Atlantic, in collaboration with a safety classification society (Lloyds Register), we are extending this approach to compute cumulative load on a ship's hull due to the time-varying wave field, to reduce uncertainty in the structural fatigue due to trans-Atlantic operation of a typical merchant vessel over several years.
Exploitation Route As this is an Innovation project, we are working in partnership with industry, specifically an offshore operator and a marine classification society, providing more accurate information on the extreme forces experienced by offshore structures.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Environment,Transport

Description Our findings are being used to inform safety in offshore operations and safety classification, although this knowledge transfer is only at the inception stage.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Impact Types Economic

Description Estimating forces on offshore structures and ships due to waves and currents 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have analysed the Met Office data outlined below to estimate forces on hypothetical tubular-pylon structures in the seas around the UK, at high space and time resolution. This adds value to an operational product of the Met Office and brings potential benefits to other project partners (Lloyds Register, Ramboll, BMT Argoss).
Collaborator Contribution Following discussions at the Met Office in August 2016, Dr Andrew Saulter (Surge, Waves and Metocean Projects Manager) provided output data from a recent model hindcast generated to test viability of a wave model configuration for the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (EU/PWS funded). Output includes wind, surface currents (combined tide and meteorological effects) and wave parameters (including significant wave height, periods, direction and Stokes Drift) at hourly resolution from July 2014 through to June 2016, for the northeast Atlantic and northwest European shelf, at a horizontal resolution of ~7 km. The high time and space resolution is necessary for accurate evaluation of forces on offshore structures.
Impact At this early stage, we have prepared maps and time series of extreme wave/current forces on selected structures, to be shared in due course with project partners and other stakeholders in the offshore sector.
Start Year 2016