Invention: Safe transfer to and from offshore platforms
Dutch engineer Jan van der Tempel has made offshore transfers safer, more efficient and reliable with his motion-compensating gangway. The platform connects moving ships to offshore facilities, similar to a boarding ramp that joins an aeroplane to an airport gate. By countering wave motion even in hazardous conditions, his platform has enabled over six million workers to be safely transferred and is used by offshore operators worldwide.
Moving workers between a ship in open water and an offshore platform has been a long‑standing challenge for the offshore sector. Traditional solutions often involve a gangway fixed between two points, helicopter transfers or cranes that lift large "baskets" carrying personnel or cargo. However, rough seas and unstable weather can be dangerous and often cause such transfers to be abandoned entirely, resulting in costly production delays.
As an offshore wind engineer with first-hand experience of the problem, Jan van der Tempel was convinced that there must be a more effective way of transferring workers and cargo. He wanted to develop a platform that would generate stability in a turbulent environment and imagined a kind of "reverse flight simulator", which instead of simulating movement in a stationary setting, would be capable of anticipating and counteracting motion. From this initial idea, he developed and tested the system at Delft University of Technology. Motion sensors feed information to six computer-controlled hydraulic cylinders which support a transfer platform and compensate for any motion experienced on the ship with just milliseconds of delay. Personnel and cargo can then be transferred quickly and securely via the stable platform, in wind speeds of up to 60 kilometres an hour and in waves of up to four metres. The inventor came up with the concept for his stable gangway system during an offshore wind conference in Berlin - which is why he named it after Berlin's iconic pedestrian traffic signals.
Increasing efficiency and market share
Van der Tempel commercialised his invention by founding the university spin-off Ampelmann Operations, which has grown into a global industrial player in the offshore access systems market. His technology is used in over 60 motion-compensated systems and has successfully transferred over six million offshore workers and 16 million kilograms of cargo worldwide.
Van der Tempel is currently CEO of the company and remains committed to refining his technology - for example, to improve its energy efficiency - and supporting offshore operators. As the global offshore wind sector grows, the company is well placed to capitalise on the shift to renewable energy sources.
Jan van der Tempel
Safe transfer to and from offshore platforms
Jan van der Tempel (on the right)