Leg placement and removal are the two most critical operational modes for dynamically positioned jack-ups when working close to an offshore asset. Any positional deviation may lead to collision and damage to the asset. The industry operates with a weak link between the dynamic positioning (DP) system and the jacking system. Current DP systems operate without any sensors identifying the hydrodynamic force variations on the legs and spudcans, which vary between different leg and spudcan designs. When the spudcan is near to the sea bottom, the hydrodynamic force must be reported to avoid large positional deviations driven by the DP system. This article promotes a mechanism to measure these forces using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis to analyze the jack-up behavior, when the spudcan assembly is operating close to the sea bottom.


A jack-up’s dynamic positioning (DP) control system requires minimum 23–30 minutes for the mathematical model to learn the vessel’s hydrodynamic behavior and response to the environment. Although when moving between locations, DP jack-up vessels provide time for the DP model to learn the hydrodynamic behavior, the spudcan that holds the vessel position and headings does not allow the mathematical model to learn. The residual current remains constant until the spudcan is in the seabed. As a result, the DP mathematical model-building process does not help the DP system to estimate the additional forces in the form of residual current. Soon after the spudcan detaches from the seabed, the vessel drift occurs because the vessel thrusters’ response need a rapid response of thrust and azimuth (directions). The DP system manufacturers currently use a sensorless approach to account for the hydrodynamic forces on the legs and spudcans to build a factor into the mathematical model. The jack-up DP system addresses two simultaneous forces on the legs. The leg element in the air is subject to aerodynamic effects and the leg and spudcan elements in the water are subject to hydrodynamic effects. DP systems currently use drag coefficients (Cd) to compute drag forces, however the hydrodynamic force variations during the complete lowering and raising processes are never completely considered. This weak link in the overall operation leads to positional error and is generally unrecognized by the vessel operators. The risk falls to DP officer and the jacking master to handle. The DP and jacking simultaneous operations mode (SIMOPS) may easily last between 15 and 90 minutes, depending on jacking speed, operational water depth, and field procedures, on approach to the asset. The area of operation is close to the asset, which increases the risk of collision with the asset. Most of the studies on jack-up vessels focus on impact force acting on the leg during touchdown or penetrations, such as Elkadi et al. (2014) and Kreuzer et al. (2014).

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.