New generation technology

MAATS Tech is a naval architecture and engineering firm most well known for its advanced bespoke flexible pipe and cable storage and spooling systems, although MAATS Tech also brings to the market naval architecture in way of vessel conversion, and finite element analysis services. These are hallmarks of the company’s origins as a consultancy firm, established in 1989 to provide advice, including design appraisal and vessel conversion advice to North Sea offshore operators. By the mid-1990s this had developed into engineering building and in some cases installing its own complementary equipment, where it has excelled in the development of spooling systems for flexible pipes, umbilical, and power cable applications.

Since its establishment, MAATS Tech has manufactured approximately 30 storage systems (carousels) for clients including Aker Marine Contractors, SBM, Subsea 7, and Technip. Over the years carousels have grown and structures up to 7000 tonnes capacity are not unheard of today, driven upward by the demands of offshore operators and increasingly complex deep water projects. To meet this challenge, MAATS Tech has put its products through constant development and since 2007 has offered its third generation design with a centre pillar mounted spooling system.

Founder and managing director John Holt explains in more detail the revolutionary design: “It is completely different to the way that flexible pipe and cable has been spooled into storage carousels over the years. This unit is mounted on a centre pillar and therefore has much greater flexibility in what it can reach and do. Older designs – not only ours, but everyone’s – were based on articulating chutes like gutters that extended down into carousels with hydraulically controlled fingers at the end to push the product into the carousel in a way that it can rest, evenly packed. Older MAATS Tech systems were also mounted up in the deckheads of the carousel hold but are now mounted directly on the centre pillar.

“The third generation unit has an arm that can push sideways in both directions, so it can actually push the flexible pipe against the outside of the carousel and outer wall, or it can push it against the central core. Therefore the arm can move across the coils of pipe and push them into place with minimum need for manual interaction – the arm can also list to assist with stowage of pipeline end manifolds. This arrangement provides a much bigger operational range: about 320 degrees, compared with about 40 degrees on most deckhead mounted arms. The new spooling arm started off as quite a light unit but the offshore operators are good at extending the operation of their equipment to gain the absolute maximum envelope, so they often came back to us and asked not for four or even six tonnes sideways pressure but eight and ten tonnes. The design has developed from the feedback of its users.”

The third generation spooling system has been extremely well received. The number of clients approaching MAATS Tech with the system already included as part of their specification was high enough that the company now offers it as a default system. Recent examples of projects utilising the pillar mounted spooling system include two new carousels building for Subsea 7, four carousels for IHC Merwede Holland, and two carousels with loading systems for DSME Korea. All are intended for eventual operation in Brazilian waters under contracts tendered by Petrobras.

The growth of the Brazilian oil industry has been a massive boon to MAATS Tech, as these projects suggest. In October 2010, Petrobras decided to rejuvenate its vessel requirements ahead of future offshore exploration and drilling activities that specified carousels similar in design to MAATS Tech’s third generation systems. Already a market leader in this centre spooling, high degree rotational arm design, as well as having an established reputation in the region through past contracts with Technip, Subsea 7 and other clients, MAATS Tech has become many shipbuilder’s first port of call.

“Over the past years we have had a lot of our equipment installed on newbuilds and conversions, even cutting vessels in half and adding a mid body section to enable the installation of the carousels,” John says. “The market turning toward our style of equipment, and the fact we already had equipment on ships working successfully in Brazil, presented us with the opportunity to look at the five vessels Petrobras wanted and modify our designs to meet the specification. There have never been so many enquiries for equipment and engineering services in our company’s history as we have had over the last two years. It has been an incredible period and I would say we have been lucky to secure each and every one of those projects, but it is also a reflection on the quality of our engineering and products.”

As previously mentioned, carousels are not the company’s only output. MAATS Tech has had a steady though lesser-known business in vessel design and conversion for a long time, and business in this area has been steady over the last couple of years as well. It specialises in overseeing designs for conversions of large vessels such as FPSOs as well as complete architecture for smaller support vessels; for example, two 40 tonne ice-classed tugs that were recently built in Singapore and are now operating in the Caspian Sea. All design and conversion work makes use of the company’s expertise in finite element analysis, which is crucial for determining the performance relationship between the vessel and its heavy equipment. With the combination of naval architecture, mechanical engineering and finite element analysis the interface requirements are well understood and well covered.

Business continues to increase and MAATS Tech is determined to make the most of this thriving market period to reinforce its own capabilities. “We have projects on our order book that go right through to 2015, and we want to use this period to broaden our engineering services,” states John, looking to the future. “The cash flow that is coming in from these projects gives us the time we need to expand our portfolio. For example, the finite element analysis side of the business is doing very well at the moment but we want to improve our services here even further.

“We also need to underpin our engineering resources with undergraduate, graduate, and experienced engineers. They are difficult to find but we are advertising regularly now and hope to recruit people that can join the company on a permanent basis to grow with MAATS Tech. The company is determined to consolidate what it already has, widen its capabilities, and hopefully become more attractive than ever to the multinational operators.”

Groundbreaking spooling system
Excellent business performance
High quality engineering