Dries Lammens was among Jan De Nul’s engineers who were present when the requirements set to the Sunfish and Moonfish were put on the table.

“A project for which so far no equipment existed but for which it must be created is no doubt a challenge,” he admits. “In principle, the possibilities are endless. But there are all sorts of practical reasons that explain why we usually prefer to look for existing equipment that is able to handle a certain job, as the case may be subject to some adjustments that we can make ourselves. Here, for the Race Bank project, we soon knew that this would not be possible. Our trusted machine suppliers were – to put it mildly – were not too keen, also considering the urgency of the assignment. Basically, the requirements were far too specific and we also had to consider the fact that existing machines had already got stuck during a previous job in the same area."

"So, our engineers set to the drawing table. In order to draw up internal specifications, they must try to define what the actual requirements are. Are the prior assumptions correct? Why should the maximum weight footprint of the machines be considerably less than that of a human being? Which power does such a machine need? What in the event of a defect at sea, can it be solved on the spot? If all this has been mapped, we can start conceiving and drawing solutions. For this job, we decided to purchase parts on the market according to our own specifications and to integrate them in our workshops into one properly performing machine. First to scale, then in its actual size, up to its first and through to final commissioning.” “We play a crucial part from start to finish. Our work is not finished upon the first commissioning of the equipment, during which it is not at all uncommon that the engineers who had the machine built are at the controls. Machines that are completely new, may suffer from teething troubles for they are of course prototypes. And the Sunfish and Moonfish were prototypes that were immediately sent off to their first assignment. That’s why our department stayed on board long after the project had been kicked off.” 

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