Apex Hydraulics worked in conjunction with a marine engineering consultancy service to produce a pile upending tool


Offshore work is one of the most strenuous environments for hydraulic systems. Sea water can corrode materials easily while strong winds and storms can damage machinery. The huge loads, exposure and isolation of the fabrications mean that every aspect of machinery needs to be designed, engineered and produced to the highest standards using the most up-to-date technology.

Apex Hydraulics worked in conjunction with a marine engineering consultancy service to produce a pile upending tool, intended to pick up piles that are between 3 – 6 meters in diameter and up to 100 meters in length.
Designed for use in constructions such as wind farms, the fabrications were for use in some of the most potentially dangerous off shore operations. The huge foundation pile flanges can weigh up to 1200 tonnes and when they are being moved, all personnel need to be well away from the structure, operating the machinery remotely.

The specially engineered pile upending tool utilises wireless auto-engagement, with a basic control system but up-to-date technology providing maximum fail safes.

In order to handle the extreme weights and sizes the equipment needed to be enormously strong, but also lightweight as the weight of the tool must be deducted from the operating cranes lifting capacity.

The company commissioned Apex to design two different hydraulic cylinders, providing two of each (four in total) along with 16 bladder accumulators. These were to be used in conjunction with the monopile gripper arm on the back of the vessel used to hold the pile. One hydraulic cylinder delivers the gripping force, while the other provides the rotation feature, bringing the pile into a vertical position. The accumulators provide a means of hydraulic pressure when operated remotely.

Apex Design and Project Engineer, Steven North states;

“While the hydraulics we manufactured were not particularly large or unusual, they were completely bespoke and designed to the exact specifications requested by the client and were fully certified by DNV-GL.”

The cylinders were subjected to Apex’s own rigorous inspection department. They also facilitated reviews by the client’s own third-party inspection agencies, who are required to oversee all aspects of offshore machinery development. When in place, the resulting machinery is able to upend these huge foundation pile flanges for safer and faster offshore wind farm installation operations while keeping all personnel at a safe distance from operations.

The machinery has just successfully completed a huge wind turbine installation in Denmark, safely fitting 49 piles of 690 tonnes each. The ground-breaking design has recently won an award for innovation.


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