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Oil vessel safety system wins top award for Motueka firm

Oil vessel safety system wins top award for Motueka firm

When an international oil company needed a safety system for a massive oil processing vessel being towed from Korea to the North Sea, they found their solution at a Motueka High Street business – Coppins Sea Anchors.

Managing Director Bill Coppins said this kind of phone call is not unusual but the size of the ship made this one a challenge.

“The vessel, the Glen Lyon, is 270 metres long (that’s two and half football fields) and 52 metres wide. It can be connected to 100 oil wells at a time, processing up to 130,000 barrels of oil and 220 million cubic feet of gas a day,” he says. “They had to prepare it for the massive storms and seas it would face on the journey from Korea to the North Sea and they needed the solution urgently – the vessel was going to sail in less than three months from signing a contract.”

The system was needed for control and steerage in an emergency. Coppins said there were unique challenges in the job, including the odd shape of the vessel, not designed for easy towing. This meant that an entirely new system had to be developed and delivered to Korea, with crew trained in its use prior to sailing. He says the stakes were high, with any mishap potentially costing lives and environmental damage, and even a delay being very costly.

Coppins created the innovative steerage and control system, and was rewarded with the Supreme Award at the recent OFPANZ (Outdoor Fabric Products Association of New Zealand) awards.

“As well as the bulk of the vessel and the radical new shape of the system, we had to prove the benefits to a customer on the other side of the world, and work under time pressures,” Coppins says. “Fortunately we are well prepared for this kind of challenge.”

Coppins Sea Anchors are essentially ‘underwater parachutes’ made of light nylon fabric and rope. They are used to keep vessels safe at sea, including some very large ones owned by major international customers, such as the US Navy.

The innovative Glen Lyon system also won first place in the Outdoor Fabric Products Association’s new Green Awards for environmental awareness.

“Concern for the protection of the environment was almost certainly a factor in the international oil company’s decision to approach us in the first place,” Coppins says. “The oil company conducts careful reviews before signing any contract – for us it’s just good business practice, but we were delighted for this to be recognised with the award.”

The Motueka company has developed low-energy methods for testing its products, and its sea anchors have more stopping power than any similar-sized product anywhere else in the world. This is the fifth time that Coppins products have won the OFPANZ Supreme Award.

Meanwhile, the oil processing vessel has arrived safely, as planned, in the North Sea. With world-beating New Zealand technology on board, this was never really in doubt.


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