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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Safer Operations at Sea - Supported by Operational Simulations (SOS-SOS)

Currently Active: 

Ships and fixed offshore structures must withstand the combined force of waves and currents, with additional effects due to sea ice in the Arctic. Funded by a NERC Innovation Grant, we are working in partnership with the Met Office and three industrial partners to quantify these forces, across the northwest European shelf seas, in the northeast Atlantic, and across the Arctic. Combining physical oceanography and the mathematics of fluid structure interaction, we are thus addressing the likely extreme loads on a selection of structures and ships, in a wide range of offshore environments.

In offshore engineering, forces due to currents and waves, on floating or fixed offshore structures, are considered in the time or frequency domain. Accessing the pertinent environmental data relevant to a specific at-sea area of operation is not straightforward for engineers or mathematicians, who use analyses that are based on radiation wave influences and diffraction or inertia-drag prediction techniques. We have developed an integrated approach, bringing together physical oceanographers and engineers, in partnership with industrial partners concerned with marine advice and safety.

We are developing a flexible system, integrating high-quality simulations of ocean currents, tides and waves, in a variety of environments, including the effects of sea ice in high latitudes. In this way, we aim to provide the best possible advice on forces and environmental conditions experienced by offshore structures and ships, for both classification and operational purposes.

We have analysed the Met Office data outlined below to estimate forces on hypothetical tubular-pylon structures in the seas around the UK, at high space and time resolution. This adds value to an operational product of the Met Office and brings potential benefits to other project partners (Lloyd's Register, Ramboll, BMT Argoss).

Snapshot of combined wave/current forces.
Snapshot of combined wave/current forces.

We are using output data from a recent Met Office hindcast, generated to test viability of a wave model configuration for the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service. Output includes surface currents (combined tide and meteorological effects) and wave parameters (including significant wave height, periods, direction and Stokes Drift) at hourly resolution from July 2014 through to June 2016, for the northeast Atlantic and northwest European shelf, at a horizontal resolution of ~7 km. The high time and space resolution is necessary for accurate evaluation of forces on offshore structures.


Hourly combined force for a selected location.
Hourly combined force for a selected location.

Initial results suggest that waves dominate extreme forces in shallow water, such as the North Sea, while mean ocean currents are relatively more important in deep water, such as along the shelf break.

This research is funded by a NERC Innovation Grant (ref. NE/N017099/1)

PhDs and other Opportunities


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