My name is Eelco Driel and I work as a Technical Consultant at Proact. Sometimes as a Technical Consultant you work at home for weeks on end and you sweat in your attic room to get all your work done, but from time to time you also work on location at customers. And in some cases there are unique jobs in very special locations. This is such a case and I would like to tell you about it!
At our loyal customer Heerema Marine Contracters, various office automation systems are running worldwide that consist of servers, storage, network and OSes. Such locations normally consist of office buildings, but our client Heerema also has a number of mobile locations, in the form of ships (vessels) that sail around the world. Since these locations do not always have a connection to the mainland, these vessels are completely self-sufficient in terms of automation.
In the past year, Heerema has again refreshed the storage systems for a number of vessel locations (Balder, Sleipnir and Thialf). Beforehand, together with Heerema, I first prepared these NetApp MetroClusters at the head office in Leiden to ensure that everything functioned properly. In addition, everything was already set up in such a way that the rest of the work was just setting it up on location, connecting the ‘strings’ and starting things up.
Subsequently, the Balder (Curaçao) and Thialf (Stavanger, Norway) locations were the first to be sent and placed and connected on location by the people of Heerema themselves. After that, the Heerema people and I were able to put the new systems into production.
For the Sleipnir location, the intention was that I would provide on-site support when this vessel would arrive in the Netherlands (Calandkanaal). I had never been to this location before.
Before you can visit a Heerema floating location, you must first have an offshore certification, called: “Basic Offshore Safety Induction & Emergency Training (BOSIET)“. I have had this certification for 8 years and have also renewed it neatly every 4 years. This course consists of a piece of theory, but also a large piece of practice.
For example, you have to extinguish different fires with different types of fire extinguishers and you learn, among other things, how to escape from a helicopter that is under water in the event that you have to be taken to the location with a helicopter and for whatever reason also crashes. This makes it all exciting!
Normally, the replacements are carried out at the Heerema jetty in the Caland Canal under Rotterdam. However, the time that the Sleipnir was moored here at the beginning of May was so short that we could not carry out our actions during that time. Then I received a call from Heerema asking if I could come along to Stavanger in Norway to carry out the work there. Of course I didn’t let this great opportunity pass me by.
The journey to Sleipnir was an experience in itself. After a successful flight, during which I could already admire Seipnir from the air, we started the last part of the journey. In Norway, the Heerema vessels are not docked, so we had to be taken to a port and then, unfortunately not by helicopter, taken to the Sleipnir. After a short trip the Sleipnir loomed up in full regalia.
Normally you can board the vessels via a walkway/lift. However, because the Sleipnir was in the middle of the water, you will be hoisted on board with your luggage via a crew basket. So you shouldn’t be afraid of heights either. Fortunately, the wind was not very strong and we all arrived safely on board.
Safety is a very important part within Heerema. They insist that everything is done safely. That is why you are also obliged to attend a safety briefing the moment you come on board. In this they explain how you should behave and what should happen if an unsafe situation occurs. They also show where the (possible) lifeboats are located.
The Sleipnir itself is very luxurious. It is noticeable that this vessel was only officially launched in 2019, everything is still new.
On the vessel I stayed in my own cabin, a kind of small hotel room with its own facilities. Because we had little time to carry out our work, I didn’t see it often (especially in the beginning), but there was always a place to relax.
The food is very well arranged on all vessels. You can eat all kinds of tasty things at fixed times of the day. They have both a European kitchen and an Asian kitchen, so the food is nice and varied.
Of course, there was still work to be done. Because we had an early flight from Schiphol, we were on board the Sleipnir around noon. The NetApp equipment was already neatly brought to the right rooms, so that we could immediately get started with the construction.
By the end of the afternoon we had installed and connected everything in both rooms and we could start migrating all data from the existing NetApp environment. Due to the limited amount of data that had to be copied, I expected that we would be able to do that in a few hours.
However, I had not taken into account that the disks on the existing NetApp were running at their limits, which unfortunately slowed down the process. At half past 12 in the first night we decided to leave things alone and go to bed.
The next morning we woke up early and we quickly found the bottlenecks that caused the heavy load on the disks. As a result, we were able to transfer all data to the new NetApp hardware that same day.
So on the last full day we were finally able to remove the old hardware from the rack and hang the new hardware in its original place.
Because the work eventually went well, there was also time to look around at the Sleipnir. They were not in production at the time we were carrying out our work, but they were already making some preparations for work that would start shortly after our stay, namely the installation of a number of offshore wind foundations in the North Sea.
In total there are two large cranes on the Sleipnir, each of which can lift 10,000 tons. In addition, they also have a mobile crane on deck that can drive over the deck and a crane that lifts the crew basket, among other things. Everything was beautifully lit at night.
All in all, it was a very nice experience to experience the ins and outs off-shore for once. And now I have finally been able to use my BOSIET certification in real life.