Site Specific Assessment and Class Approval for Jack up Rigs

When it comes to safety for Jack Ups, there is a rigorous process in place including International Bodies (International Codes), Class Societies (Class Rules), National Legislation (Shelf States), and National Maritime Legislation (Flag States). Although they don’t require a flag, having one enables them to move freely across international waters. When this is planned, the Maritime Authority regulations must be adhered to according to the Flag State (the country whose flag they are flying).

Normally, each drilling unit will be registered with a Flag State Governmental Administration. Essentially, the role of this administration is to set the requirements for each registering unit and these requirements generally follow the lead of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) since these are internally-agreed suggestions. More recently, the responsibility of verifying compliance has been awarded to classification societies and they also issue Marpol certificates, Loadline, and Tonnage.

Moving away from the flag, there are some governments who also request all drilling units to adhere to their own safety regulations when working in their waters. For example, the United Kingdom has a Health and Safety Offshore Division which ensures the safety of all drilling equipment in UK waters.

In terms of classification societies, these are largely independent and have no relation to any other party and this is important because their sole priority is the quality of the Jack Ups. In addition to authorities, these societies could be the owners, insurance underwriters, charterers, sub-contractors, building yards, and finance institutions.

Figure 1 - Jack up Rigs in a Shipyard (, 2018)

Figure 1 – Jack up Rigs in a Shipyard (, 2013)

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Basic Knowledge of Jacking Operation for Jack up Rigs

Jacking, which is one of operation modes for jack up, is a specific way to raise up a hull of a jack up rig so this article will describe about the basic of jacking and preloading operation.

Jacking Operation

Mat jack up units (figure 1) jack the mat to the seabed, in accordance with the ballasting procedure. When the mat is fully lowered, the hull is then jacked out of the water. After this is complete, the unit will then proceed to preload operations. It is vital that all independent leg units also perform preload operations before being jacked to the design air gap. The majority of independent leg units lack the capacity needed to fully elevate the Jack Up unit while the preload weight is still aboard. In these cases, the next step will be to jack the hull out of the water until a very small air gap is achieved- this should be at the very most 5 feet. Once this has been reached, then preload operations can continue.

Figure 1 - Mat Footing Jack Up Rig

Figure 1 – Mat Footing Jack Up Rig

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Basic Knowledge of a Jack Up Rig Transit Mode

The Transit Mode occurs when a Jack Up Unit is being transported from one location to another. The unit could either be afloat on its own hull (known as a “wet tow”), or be carried as cargo aboard another vessel (a “dry tow”). Each of these modes will be described in detail below.

In terms of preparation for each transit mode, the main areas that need to be dealt with are the leg support, hull support, the watertight integrity of the unit in general, and properly securing all cargo and equipment so that it does not shift during transit. The units legs will need to be raised so that they do not come into contact with the seabed, but they do not need to be fully retracted in most cases. By keeping parts of the legs lower than the hull baseline, the jacking time is reduced, and leg inertia loads are reduced due to tow motions and stability is increased thanks to lessened wind overturning. In addition, slightly lowering the legs can help to improve the hydrodynamic flow around the open leg wells and reduce tow resistance. Regardless of the exact position of the legs during towing, it is essential to check their structure at the leg/hull interface, to ensure that they are able to withstand the gravity and inertial loads experienced during the tow.

Wet tow

A “Field Tow” takes place when the Jack Up unit is being transported afloat on its own hull, with the legs raised, and where it is only being transported a fairly short distance to its new location. Since this move is only a short distance, it is easy to predict the weather and sea state during the tow. This means that the preparation for a Field Tow is usually less intense than for a longer tow. Field Tows do not last longer than 12 hours, and need to satisfy particular requirements with regards to motion criteria. This criteria, which is expressed as a roll/pitch magnitude during a certain period, limits the inertial loads on both the legs and the leg support mechanism.

Figure 1 - Wet-tow of Mærsk Innovator (Maersk Drilling, 2014)

Figure 1 – Wet-tow of Mærsk Innovator (Maersk Drilling, 2014)

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Basic Information about Jack Up Rig Legs

This article describes about basic information of jack up legs – Cylindrical Legs vs Trussed Legs, Three-Legged Jack Up  vs Four-Legged Jack Up and Three-Chorded Legs vs Four-Chorded Legs.

Cylindrical Legs vs Trussed Legs

Since the hull needs to stay above the storm wave crest, withstand certain pressures, and transmit different loads between the footing and hull, every Jack Up unit will have legs of some sort. Similar to the footings, there are two different types in trussed legs and cylindrical legs.

Cylindrical Legs

Cylindrical legs can vary slightly but the basic premise involves hollow steel tubes. However, some units will have internal stiffening and others may have rack teeth or small holes to allow the hull to move up and down the legs. Generally, these cylindrical legs are used on units that stay shallower than 300 feet of water depth. With the newer units that are designed to work in environment deeper than 300 feet, they tend to use trussed legs and this is because trussed legs require less steel for the same resistance and same elevated response.

Figure 1 - Cylindrical Leg Jack up (, 2018)

Figure 1 – Cylindrical Leg Jack up (, 2018)

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Introduction to a Jack Up Rig

A Jack Up is a type of offshore drilling rigs. It is made up of a hull, legs, and a lifting system and a jack up rig can be towed to the offshore site, and then lower its legs into the seabed to lift up the hull, providing a stable work deck which is strong enough to cope with the required environmental loads.

Another advantage of Jack Up rigs is that they can operate in high wind speeds and with significant wave heights, as well as in water depths reaching 500 feet. Since the Jack Up will be ultimately supported by the seabed, they are usually preloaded upon arrival at the intended site to simulate the kind of leg loads that they will be exposed to. This ensures that once the rig is fully jacked up and in operation, the seabed will be able to provide a strong foundation for the rig.

The offshore industry has made significant use of Jack Up rigs for over 60 years now. They are especially useful for exploration drilling since they are relatively easy to set up, and also provide ample production, accommodation, and maintenance areas. Over the years, Jack Ups have been pushed to their limits in terms of what they can do. This includes their deck load carrying limits both when afloat and when elevated, their environmental and drilling limits, and the soil, or foundation, limits. By pushing these limits, drilling companies have been able to explore deeper waters, drill deep reservoirs in harsh conditions, and even drill in areas with unstable soils and foundations. Continue reading