Rapp Marine’s long and successful history began in the early 20th century, following the combined interests of the Swiss engineer Ferdinand Münz and Norwegian shipping tycoon Fred Olsen.
Aktieselskapet Motoren Rapp was founded in 1907, initially manufacturing boat engines and later, machine guns during the Second World War.
The company then went on to win a lucrative contract for the production of power block engines from the American-based company MARCO Group, setting off a chain of events that led to the development of innovative heavy duty winches for use within the fishing industry. In 1979, with the business on the verge of bankruptcy, Rapp’s winch technology attracted the attention of local investors, who swooped in to provide the company with the capital to continue.
Fire door technology, initially developed by Rapp Bomek, paved the way for the company’s entrance into the Norwegian offshore industry. The organisation soon realised that the range of winch technology it had developed since its inception for the fishing industry could also be applied to oil and gas markets.
Tove Pettersen, marketing and communication manager, outlines the important role that technology and innovation plays within Rapp Marine: “Winch technology in the oil and gas sector continues with the growing demand on the operating capabilities of multi-function construction and support vessels. Working in potentially harsh environments in the offshore oil fields, our winches have to be capable of staying “on-station” for prolonged periods during heavy lift and ROV support operations.
“Our customers are buying a function: and they use our technology to improve their productivity,” says Tove. “Understanding this is Rapp’s role in the industry, and it is the challenge we face on each contract, meaning that our experience and knowledge is our strength. Innovation and invention is the absolute key, we must always think ahead, focusing on finding smarter and comprehensive solutions.”
Innovation for the Rapp group is not just a phrase – for over 100 years, it has been part of the company’s everyday way of working. “The latest example of this is the paradigm shift from hydraulic to electric power on our winches, which is a revolution comparable to the change from sail to internal combustion engine,” Tove explains. “Our standard winch range is built to serve the observation, work class and HD workclass ROV systems that can operate to depths in excesses of 4000 metres. These winch systems are electrically powered from multi-motor drives, and are furnished with Rapp’s automatic heave motion compensation system that allows vessels to operate over a longer period of time during adverse weather conditions.”
Heave Motion Compensation or “heave-comp” as it is more commonly known is a relatively new feature used in today’s ROV operations, but in fact the concept was first introduced by Rapp in the early 70’s for the fishing industy in response to the demand for a method of safeguarding the landing of a catch in heavy seas. Today sees a more advanced design, fully computerised with remote access capability. Many blue-chip companies are currently using these winch systems, as well as cable spooling systems based on Rapp’s traction winch technology.
Rapp Hydema’s managing director, Inge Henning Andersen, comments on its importance: “Heave compensation refers to the necessity ensuring that an ROV and its cage remain static at depth under water despite the mother ship’s natural motion with the waves. A stable position is critical during both launch and recovery operations and as the ROV enters and exits its cage – and with Rapps system, this is achieved safely and securely.”
Another of Rapp’s developments came when some technical constraints in available electric winch motors had to be overcome for a particular winch application. Rapp Hydema’s engineering team then began designing innovative power units for electric winches that incorporated fluid-cooled motors, which deliver high power at low revs, and are compact in dimension and low weight. The winch motor uses a PTS Pentagon control system, which is both user-friendly, and has an extensive support process. The first complete winch system has been sold to a company in Iceland, with delivery due at the end of 2008, and the system to be operational by the first half of 2009.
Technological developments are not solely confined to the area of winches; Rapp Bomek has been creating fire door solutions since 1983. Tove elaborates on the growth in this area: “We have gradually increased our level of business to the point where we are now Europe’s leading manufacturer of heavy, medium and light duty fire-rated steel doors to offshore and land-based installations. Together with our sister companies, we are in a position to offer the full A60 to H120 range of fire doors on a worldwide basis to our customers. Our close co-operation with major companies worldwide, is giving us the feedback we need, to develop and manufacture products in line with customers requirements. Our doors have decades of experience behind them and have been tested in real life in one of the worlds best and hardest testing fields against a harsh marine environment, the North Sea.”
Indeed, the scope of the Rapp group incorporates the majority of large companies within the global offshore industry, most notably Statoil, Awilco, Aker Kvaerner and Petrobras.
Tove is keen to acknowledge the significance of Rapp’s involvement in Statoil’s Kårstø project: “Kårstø is the world’s number three export facility for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Rapp Bomek is to deliver more than 150 door units, as well as being involved in the installation process due to the heavy labour demand of the project. Rapp Bomek has provided one installation team at Kårstø to help complete the task in association with the prime contractor, Veidekke.” Statoil’s spokeswoman, Tori Lindbøl, explains why they chose the division to collaborate on the project: “Rapp Bomek has proven that they have good products that meet our requirements on critical deliveries.”
In regards to the future, Tove expects continued challenges, but Rapp is well equipped to thrive in these circumstances: “There will always be factors that need to be overcome, such as exchange and interest rates, and the price of oil. Our intention during this period is to grow within our niche product area, and to secure the company a steady income in the oil and gas sector for as long as this boom period lasts. We predict that the marinerelated offshore market will maintain its activity for another three to four years,” she concludes.
Industry: Subsea winches and fire doors