Tankers used for offshore oil production and storage are kept in station by turret mooring systems, enabling the vessels to weathervane in the direction of the dominant environmental loads. These passive weathervaning systems have been observed in model experiments to be ineffective in swell-dominated long wave conditions. Over a range of wavelengths from 0.6 < λ/L < 2 (L – ship length), the vessel was observed to lose heading control in head sea condition, due to a pitchfork bifurcation that is initiated at a critical wavelength of 0.73L. A notable feature of poor heading stability is the existence of a stable equilibrium at a large heading angle (50–60°) with respect to the direction of oncoming waves. With lack of heading control, the ship motions, principally roll, can increase thus affecting onboard operations.

Time domain analysis conducted with no added viscous damping shows reasonable agreement with experimental data for the final heading angle. Further numerical tests reported in a previous paper by the authors showed that small to moderate viscous damping in sway and yaw did not alter the final heading, while the role played by viscous damping in other modes (heave, roll and pitch) needed further investigation. This paper reports on a parametric study on the heading stability of a turret moored tanker using time domain tools. Viscous damping is systematically varied in different modes of motion and its effect on final heading equilibrium is assessed. It is shown that effects of pitch damping are stronger than heave or roll, and can eliminate heading instability altogether.

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