Helix Express to address international market, large diameter pipelines

Nov. 1, 2006
Helix Energy Solution’s latest capital asset project, pipelay vessel Express, was scheduled to have completed the company’s first pipeline installation commitment in the North Sea by this issue’s publication date.
Vessel can reel 18 mi of 10-in. pipe

Helix Energy Solution’s latest capital asset project, pipelay vesselExpress, was scheduled to have completed the company’s first pipeline installation commitment in the North Sea by this issue’s publication date.

Helix acquired the vessel in September 2005 to address the company’s need for additional pipelay capacity to perform small to large diameter pipelay work both in the GoM and international markets. It is capable of performing deepwater and shallow water work.

Helix’s MSVExpress was upgraded at the Damen shipyard in the Netherlands, prior to beginning its North Sea commitment.
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Upon delivery to its new owner, the vessel was deemed adequate for immediate and customary pipelay projects, but it did not entirely meet the company’s operational standards and needs.

To address this void, the vessel was laid up in Rotterdam for structural and operational upgrades. Improvements performed on the unit include major structural steel work to facilitate the installation of additional pipelay equipment and a new crane, and re-positioning of the vessel’s existing pipelay system.

The vessels’ voyage to Rotterdam originated in the Gulf of Mexico. It departed from the area on June 1, crossed the Atlantic at speeds up to 15.5 knots, and arrived at the Damen shipyard in the Netherlands on June 19.

The vessel’s shipyard stint involved fabrication and installation of steel support structures above and below its deck for the new reel, crane, and re-positioning of the existing reel, which was moved 30 m forward to make room for a working deck within the area directly below the existing 400-metric ton crane. In addition, strengthening of the vessel’s deck was performed, some of its stern wind walls were removed, and platforms were fabricated for its two new XLS 150-hp ROVs.

Sponsons of around 275 ft long by 6 ft wide were installed down the sides of the vessel for enhanced motion stability in rough weather conditions. Also, the lay ramp inclination parameters were modified to enable it to perform pipelay in water depths as shallow as 50 ft deep.


The vessel’s new reel was built in the Edinburg, Scotland, area. It is larger than its original twin reels combined. With a 69-ft diameter by 30-ft wide flange, the reel can hold 1,750 metric tons of pipe. Another major component installed was the new 150-metric ton heave-compensated crane, built in Norway. According to Paul Byington, Helix GM - pipeline/reeled products division, “This is an important addition for deepwater work as it gives us the capability to gently set subsea packages such as trees, manifolds, jumpers, etc. on the seafloor in a safe and efficient manner during weather conditions that otherwise would prevent us from performing these task.”

The vessel’s new 1,750-ton reel, designed with a 69-in. diameter flange and 30-in. width, was built in Edinburgh, Scotland.
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The new lookExpress’s is 530 ft long and 114 ft wide, equipped with two pipe reels capable of carrying a total of 2,950 metric tons of product. It can carry several fully loaded 8.6-m type reels of pipe and/or or umbilical, as well as various subsea components under its existing crane. It also can carry and install additional subsea components from vessel’s forward deck under its new 150-metric ton crane either through the vessel’s moonpool or over the side.

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The vessel’s configured two main storage reels, two cranes, and two on-board abandonment-and-recovery winches, provides for a redundancy of systems not available on any other reel vessel in the industry, says Byington. “This setup minimizes the risk of mechanical downtime during a scheduled commitment.”

The vessel has been modified to improve its business facilities and living conditions, as well. According to Helix, its crew quarters are comfortable, its bridge is large and well equipped including the latest in fiber optic technology for the onboard ROV and survey interfaces, and its general facilities are complemented by a full suite of project offices and a conference room.

TheExpress was originally built in 1982 as a Russian submarine transport vessel. It was later converted into a pipe reel-lay vessel prior to acquisition by Helix.