Docking oil tankers

Weatherford International Ltd
Sentinel ER450 Digital Outstation
Floating production storage and offloading
Industry / Vertical:


Weatherford International Ltd is an oilfield services company operating in more than 730 locations and 100 countries worldwide. Headquartered in Switzerland and employing 52,000 people, it provides the oil and gas production industry with a comprehensive suite of products and services, including drilling, evaluation, completion, production, intervention as well as tactical research and development.


The transportation of crude oil plays an integral role in the production of oil-based fuels. Large tankers have to be safely filled and discharged close to land near oil refineries for extraction. Often, because of the nature of these sites and sheer size of the tankers, long jetties are used to dock the tankers. These jetties can be up to two miles from shore.

Parking a vehicle larger than the Eiffel Tower is not a straightforward task. Because of the volatile nature of the tanker’s cargo, docking the vessel requires absolute precision.

Local pilots are employed to handle the docking manoeuvre. These pilots possess knowledge of the coastal area and experience in controlling these transporters. However, this operation cannot rely on pilot skill alone. Technology, and in particular differential GPS (Global Positioning System), is employed to deliver a positioning accuracy to less than one metre.


Oil tankers vary in size – from General Purpose Tankers to Ultra Large Crude Carrier (ULCC) and differential GPS is only required when parking the vehicle. However, installing differential GPS capabilities into each vehicle would be uneconomical. Instead the local pilots fit wireless transmitters around the ship before docking to provide real time positioning information wirelessly to the pilot at the bridge.

Weatherford called on the expertise of Wood & Douglas to create a solution where differential GPS transmitters around the ship could be linked to a receiver. To provide a total picture of the pontoon’s and vessel’s position, point-to-multipoint wireless technology was needed to relay the GPS data to both the bridge of the tanker and a land-based receiver. The pilot is able to see on screen the boat’s position in relation to the pontoon and steer the ship accordingly.

Docking a ULCC tanker with a deadweight of 550,000 tons means even the slightest error in GPS data transmission can result in serious damage to the vessel and potential ecological disaster. Wood & Douglas recommended its Sentinel ER450 Digital Outstation as this would provide a reliable point-to-multipoint two-way wireless communication, rapid receive and transmit turnaround, a comprehensive management system and remote diagnostics, delivering the ‘real time’ accuracy and reliability to enable the safe docking of these vessels on every occasion.

  •  Critical wireless transmission of differential GPS data between the oil carrier and a land-based receiver.
  • Timely receive and transmit of reliable and accurate data over wireless for critical deployment.

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