A preliminary research project has been carried out to determine the effect of small ice floes on a semi-submersible drilling unit. Physical model tests have been conducted with two main objectives: first, to determine the ability of the columns to prevent ice from passing between them (arching) and thus minimizing the chance of riser damage, and second, to determine the total ice load on the semi-submersible during interaction with ice field concentrations. Three models were used, representing one half of a four, six or eight-legged semi-submersible platform. The dimensions and spacing of the columns were such that the heave and pitch responses were kept constant. The tests were conducted at a model scale of 1:30 using synthetic ice. Test results showed the maximum load measured on a four-legged semi-submersible model, at 100 percent ice floe concentration, was on the order of half of that measured on six or eight-legged semi-submersible models. Also the ice loads on a four-legged semi-submersible model at lower ice floe concentration were substantially less than those for six or eight-legged semi-submersible models. The total ice load on semi-submersible models is found to be a function of ice floe concentration. Up to about 75 percent ice concentration, ice loads varied linearly. Beyond that, the loads increased exponentially for all semi-submersible models.

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