‘I’m working on five projects in a single day’

“I never thought that cables and pipelines could be so interesting,” Wilko Okker admits. Currents, traction, mud pressure and wave calculations… “The more complex, the better,” the young engineer at Visser & Smit Hanab said. A day in the life of…

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8 am – In the field

Visiting the Afsluitdijk. Eighty-nine wind turbines in the IJsselmeer lake will provide power to 340,000 homes. V&SH is involved in a tender for the cabling. Wilko: “I’m doing the calculations for the design of a 25 km-long cable route. By seeing the site with my own eyes, I know what I have to pay attention to.”

11.30 am – Helping the guys on site

A call comes in from some colleagues at a worksite. They’ve run into a pipeline they didn’t count on at a directional drilling at 2,500 meters in the province of Zuid-Holland. “Once a project has started, I become a kind of helpdesk. At times like these it’s up to me to quickly adapt and redo the calculations so that the guys on site can keep going.”

1 pm – Quick call to Norway

In Norway V&SH is working on an 800-meter drilling operation through a large cliff. The rock-hard material had already caused serious wear and tear to the drilling equipment. Wilko came up with a new system to relieve the pressure on the rods. “These are the little gems of my job: coming up with solutions in unique situations. Now I’m curious to know what kind of benefit it will have.”

1.30 pm – Time to do some serious calculations

For a wind farm in England Wilko is calculating how to land a cable weighing 120 kg per meter through a drilling with several bends. “I have to take a number of things into consideration – from soil mechanics to hydraulics. What amount of tractive force is needed to manoeuvre the cable through the bends? Is the winch strong enough and well-secured? And what about the waves and velocity of the current? In the end a cable-laying ship comes to execute the work. And they cost 200,000 euro a day so it’s really important that we are well-prepared.”

4 pm – Checking with four eyes

A meeting with a colleague to discuss the calculations for a project in Amsterdam. The project involves a trench formwork that needs to be made to help replace an old power cable five meters under the ground. “Because we are working with strong forces, the risks are also high. Think of failure costs but also safety. So we always check each other’s work with a critical eye.”