By Karl Davis
The word Certified has lots of positive connotations, it conjures feelings of confidence, trust and strength.
Independent Certification of a design by the likes of DNV-GL, Lloyds Register, Bureau Veritas, TUV, ABS or ClassNK and similarly highly regarded organisations are highly valuable to a project. They provide reassurance to Developers, Insurers, Banks and Investors that the design is safe, reliable and robust.
All gain, no pain?
So where is the downside? Surely these are all positive things? Unfortunately, in practice, the duration of certification can be highly variable. We’ve experience of projects achieving certification over a range of timescales that be counted in months or sometimes years. Within the context of offshore wind projects uncompromising timelines, this can be devasting for a project. In fact, it is not uncommon to see Certification at the top of project risk registers for this very reason.
Where does risk lie?
There are two distinct strategies we see being used by developers with regard to the timing of the Primary Steel order. Some like to see the design certified prior to ordering steel. This mitigates any risk of certification identifying design issues which force changes to the steel order. But any delays to certification then delay steel order, which can lead to order slots being missed, any delays of many months of fabrication, which on sites with seasonal installation restrictions, can lead to a catastrophic 1-year delay. A slightly more cavalier attitude is to order primary steel as soon as the detailed design is complete, taking the risk that certification incurs an unavoidable primary steel design change, which will likely lead to both steel delivery delays and additional costs.
What is the best approach?
On a site without unusual site conditions, using a design with little novelty, and a combination of a highly experienced detailed designer and certifier, the risks of problems arising during certification are limited. However, if there is anything unusual in the site conditions (e.g. unusual soils, breaking waves, typhoons, TP-less monopiles, exotic turbines), or the detailed designer (or certifier) has limited experience, problems often arise.
Technical differences of opinion between the detailed designer and certifier can be tricky to resolve. Certifiers rightly take their role seriously, and on occasion can be a bit like a dog with a bone – just not letting go of an issue; relentlessly asking more and more detailed and increasingly academic questions. And this can be great from the perspective of ensuring your structure is safe. But not all engineering questions have black and white answers, and pragmatic solutions to tricky questions have to be made. Our recommendation here is to start discussing the difficult points early, as it is never comfortable trying to resolve a tricky technical problem with a hefty project deadline weighing on you.
Experienced certifiers can be hugely valuable to your project. They can bring encyclopaedic knowledge from the worlds technical experts to the benefit of your project. But you really want that resource working with you, because they can be a formidable adversary. Management of this relationship, and ensuring you extract the best performance from both your detailed designer and certifier requires an experienced hand.
Empire Engineering are offshore wind foundations specialists. We’re experienced at sitting between the Detailed Designer and Certifier, and facilitating a rapid resolution of issues, de-risking this process and maximising the benefits to your project. If you would like assistance with Certification Management, Design Management or just keeping your offshore wind project on schedule, please get in touch.
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