Exploring the geology of the seabed

The 261-foot drill ship Fugro Explorer during trials in Tampa Bay. (Brian Gauvin)

Fugro Explorer is a 261-foot drill ship that conducts geotechnical soil sampling and testing for a wide range of clients worldwide, including oil exploration companies and engineering firms designing bridges.

Built in Singapore by Kwong Soon Engineering, the Panama-flagged vessel is based in Galveston, Texas. It has berths for 50 people and is capable of operating for up to 40 days.

It typically carries 17 crew, plus riggers, drillers, electro-mechanical technicians, soil technicians and geotechnical engineers.

At the drilling site, Explorer holds itself on station using a Kongsberg/Simrad DP2 system.

Capt. Sam White maneuvering the vessel from the port control console. (Brian Gauvin)

“We can work in up to 35 knots of wind and 4 to 5 knots of current,” said Capt. Sam White.

A 90-foot National Oil Well derrick towers above the aft deck, fronted by a pair of Plimsoll 35-ton traction winches set below the deck.

When drilling, the ship uses a Dreco top-drive system with a Hydraudyne heave compensation system and an automated pipe-handling system. The cranes on the aft deck include a 1.5-ton Palfinger 1300M electric/hydraulic, a 6-ton Palfinger PK-6 electric/hydraulic and a 20-ton stern-mounted hydraulic A-frame.

The sampling is conducted using a variety of equipment: a dolphin system, a jumbo piston corer, a Fugro hydraulic piston corer and a Seabed wheel-drive system.

There is a 1,300-square-foot geo-technical laboratory with a full suite of geotechnical test equipment for on-board analysis and report production.

“She’s one of a kind for core sampling, being able to work in water depths up to 10,000-feet,” said White.

Above, Chief Mate Jose Zuniga uses the forward deck crane to lower a sensor to test for current and water velocity. (Brian Gauvin) Above, First Assistant Engineer Melvin Juboli working on one of the Wärtsilä  diesels. (Brian Gauvin)
Above, the top driver viewed from the top of the 90-foot derrick. (Brian Gauvin) Above, electrical/mechanical technician Jim Frazer working on the subsea power pack used for collecting core and soil samples. (Brian Gauvin)
Above, Chief Engineer Johnny Gabice standing beside one of the two Wärtsilä’s 6L26 main engines, each of which generates 3,500 hp. (Brian Gauvin) Above, Chief Steward Dante Paral and Chief Cook Mick Hayes, with mussels and lasagna. The ship has berths for 50 people and can operate for up to 40 days. (Brian Gauvin)
Left, forward deck crane used to raise and lower measuring devices. (Brian Gauvin)
By Professional Mariner Staff