Life as an offshore technician: trained like a marine with the insights of a gearbox expert

Wind farms are located in areas with diverse geographical and meteorological characteristics, so service teams need to be able to work on them under any circumstances and at any location.

Dirk, worked for 20 years on ship, wind turbine and other mobile gearboxes in his role as a service technician. Today, he trains new technicians. With this experience, he’s our partner in crime to discover the life of an offshore technician

Offshore interventions: nature as a challenge

Onshore teams experience heat in the deserts, snow in the mountains, and fog in the wetlands. Offshore technicians will carry out airborne or amphibious interventions.

While onshore interventions can take place until windspeeds with 15m/sec (7 Beaufort or 51-62 km/h), this is technically impossible for offshore interventions. Technicians will need to climb to the platform and with waves up to 6m height this would not be possible. “Offshore technicians fight nature until wind speeds with 12m/sec (6 Beaufort or 40-50 km/h). Even with this wind speed, waves can be up to 4m height. Transfers with pilot boats are limited to 1,2m-1,4m wave height. Not only the waves make it hard to work, also the turbine will be moving, “ explains Dirk. Imagine you’re up in the air at a height of 120m, connected to a turbine that might be swaying up to one meter and with wind of 50km/h blowing around your body… Even under these conditions you need to be focused to deliver precise inspections and serviced.

Offshore trainings: in the footsteps of a marine

Due to the risk of the work, service technicians always work with a minimum of two persons. ZF technicians always partner with a customer technician. This way, knowledge from both parties is shared and interventions can take place under safe and optimal conditions. Once at the turbine, it’s you and your partner. You become a team which co-operates and trust in each other to safely deliver a positive service outcome.
There’s more as just partnering… Safety is priority number one. Technicians should for example be able to apply first aid, fight fires, escape from height or even under water (imagine a helicopter falls in the water…). “Technical offshore trainings can be compared with marine trainings. Technicians get sea survival trainings, including boat and helicopter underwater escape trainings (HUET),” tells Dirk. “Also, the team is always connected with an onshore station and technicians wear special suits that send out GPS-signals and keeps them warm for one hour in the water. “

When we ask Dirk about accidents during his 35 years experience in offshore service, he’s happy to say there have not been serious accidents in wind field service. “Thanks to safety rules and trainings, which are yearly refreshed, we limit the risk. Next to that, there’s the fact there’s no routine in this job. Your job is a mix of inspections, repairs and more at different locations with different partners… this keeps you alert.”