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Title:
CONNECTOR ASSEMBLIES FOR FLOATING SECTIONS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2003/016129
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A connector assembly for connecting adjacent members such as buoyant members, characterised by two housings (12,12, 14,14) respectively adapted for mounting at a boundary of a member (10,10'), by one housing (12,12 or 14,14) seating one bodily shiftable connector element (20,50), and by the other housing (12,12,14,14) being adapted to receive at least part of the one connector element (20,50) for connecting the adjacent said members (10,10') together on bodily shifting of the one connector element from one housing (12 or 14) towards the other (12 or 14) so as to be captive in both.

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Inventors:
Yeong, Kin Ho AU. (Blk 10, #11-07 Geylang East Ave 2, Singapore 8, 38975, SG)
Tan, Ching Eng (Blk 71 Jurong East St. 13, #13-10, Singapore 0, 60965, SG)
Application Number:
PCT/SG2002/000183
Publication Date:
February 27, 2003
Filing Date:
August 14, 2002
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
SINGAPORE TECHNOLOGIES MARINE LIMITED (**)
Yeong, Kin Ho AU. (Blk 10, #11-07 Geylang East Ave 2, Singapore 8, 38975, SG)
Tan, Ching Eng (Blk 71 Jurong East St. 13, #13-10, Singapore 0, 60965, SG)
International Classes:
B63B35/34; B63B35/38; E01D15/14; E02B3/06; B63B3/08; (IPC1-7): B63B35/34; B63B35/38
Domestic Patent References:
WO2001054969A1
Foreign References:
US4060048A
DE2528961B1
US5606929A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DREW & NAPIER LLC (20 Raffles Place, #17-00 Ocean Towers, Singapore 0, 04862, SG)
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Claims:
CLAIMS:
1. A connector assembly for connecting adjacent members such as buoyant members, characterised by two housings (12,12, 14,14) respectively adapted for mounting at a boundary of a member (10,10'), by one housing (12,12 or 14,14) seating one bodily shiftable connector element (20,50), and by the other housing (12,12, 14,14) being adapted to receive at least part of the one connector element (20,50) for connecting the adjacent said members (10,10') together on bodily shifting of the one connector element from one housing (12 or 14) towards the other (12 or 14) so as to be captive in both.
2. An assembly according to claim 1, characterised by the one housing (14) comprising two connector elements (20) and (50).
3. An assembly according to claim 2, characterised by the two connector elements (20) and (50) comprising a first connector element (20) for substantially rigidly connecting the two members (10,10') and a second connector element (50) for connecting the two members (10,10') in an articulated manner.
4. An assembly according to claim 3, characterised by the first connector element (20) comprising a boxlike member housed in one housing (14) so that the boxlike member is liftable substantially vertically and is then shiftable laterally so part of the boxlike member (20) is received in the other housing (14) whereby to secure the two members (10,10') together substantially rigidly.
5. An assembly according to claim 4, characterised by the means (72, 94) comprising stud (94) and socket (72,72') arrangements.
6. An assembly according to claim 5, characterised by two spaced studs (94) carried by the boxlike member (20) and by two equidistantly spaced sockets (72,72') in the base of each of the two housings (14,14).
7. An assembly according to any of claims 4 to 6, characterised by means to assist lifting of the boxlike member (20).
8. An assembly according to claim 7, characterised by the said means (30) comprising a shaft (30) pivotably connected to the boxlike member (20) at a position near an upper end (33) (in use), and to the housing (14) and/or member (10) at the opposite end (34), by stops spaced apart longitudinally of the shaft (30), and by a device (32) mounted between the stops to provide a force tending to and lifting of the boxlike element (20) during an operation to connect to two members (10,10').
9. An assembly according to claim 8, characterised by the device (32) comprising a helical tension spring mounted on the shaft (30).
10. An assembly according to any of claims 7 to 9, charactised by there being a pair of means (30) to assist lifting of the boxlike member (20).
11. An assembly according to claim 10, characterised by there being a said means (30) lying alongside each major planar surface of the boxlike member (20).
12. An assembly according to any of claims 7 to 11, characterised by a handle device (38) to aid bodily shifting of the boxlike member (20) during a connecting operation.
13. An assembly according to claim 12, characterised by the handle device (38) comprising a Ushaped handle mounted by its legs atop the boxlike member (20) and extending in a direction parallel to the planes of the major planar surfaces of the boxlike member (20).
14. An assembly according to claim 3, characterised by the second connector element (50) comprising an elongate member, by the elongate element (50) being pivotably mounted in a first one of the housings (14,12) for lifting therefrom in a substantially vertical direction prior to pivoting to engage an opposite end in the other housing for flexible connection of the two adjacent members (10,10').
15. An assembly according to claim 14, characterised by the elongate element (50) comprising a link member having a body with through bores at opposite ends (56,58) whereby the link member (50) is reversibly mountable in one or other of the housings (14,12).
16. An assembly according to claim 15, characterised by a locking member (60) through one through bore (56) about which the link member (50) is pivotable so that the opposite through bore (58) is received in the other housing (4,12) and by a further locking member (62) in the other housing (14,12) whereby the link member (50) is secured in the other hosing (14,12) for securing the two adjacent members (10,10') in an articulated manner.
17. An assembly according to claim 16, characterised by the locking members (60,62) each comprising a shoot bolt.
18. An assembly according to claim 16 or claim 17, characterised by a handle device (110) to aid bodily shirting of the link member (50) during a connecting operation.
19. An assembly according to claim 18, characterised by there being a plurality of handle devices (110) carried by each link member (50).
20. An assembly according to claim 19, characterised by each handle device (110) comprising a Ushaped handle mounted by its legs for pivoting between a stowed position and a deployed position for aiding movement of the link member (50).
21. An assembly according to any of claims 4 to 20, characterised by the respective housing (14) being a substantially Tconfiguration and by the platlike member being housed and received in the upright limb of the respective Tmembers (14).
22. An assembly according to claim 21, characterised by the second connector element (50) being housed in the bar of the Tshaped housing (14).
23. An assembly according to claim 22, characterised by a locking member (60) of the housing (14) adapted to secure the first connector (20) in either or both of the housings.
24. An assembly according to claim 23, characterised by the locking member (60) comprising a shoot bolt.
25. An assembly according to any preceding claim, characterised by guide means (82) for guiding movement of the at least one connector element (20,50).
26. An assembly according to claim 25, characterised by the guide means (82) comprising guide blocks.
27. An assembly according to any preceding claim, characterised by spacer devices (26) for spacing adjacent members (10,10') apart a desired distance during the connecting operation.
28. An assembly according to claim 27, characterised by the spacer devices (26) comprising fenders carried by each housing (12,14) and/or members (10,10') to be connected.
29. An assembly according to any of claims 2 to 28, characterised by each member (10,10') having a plurality of housings (12,14) spaced apart at its boundary, and by the housings (14,12) each comprising a combination respectively of two connector elements (20,50) and one connector element (50).
30. An assembly according to claim 29, characterised by the two connector elements (20,50) comprising a first connector element (20) and a second connector element (50) of one housing (14), and by the one connector element (50) comprising a second connector element (50) of one housing (12).
31. A combination of adjacent members (10,10') connected by a connector assembly according to any preceding claim.
Description:
CONNECTOR ASSEMBLIES FOR FLOATING SECTIONS Field of the invention The present invention relates to connector assemblies for connecting two or more floating sections such as pontoons and other floating platforms.

However, although the description herein relates primarily to the connection of two or more floating platforms, it should be appreciated that the invention is capable of wider application to any two or more buoyant members.

Background and prior art Connection systems are required for engaging floating sections or members in an articulated manner. Floating members such as pontoons or other platforms are suitable for many marine applications, and two or more such members can be combined to form various articulated assemblies. For example, they may be articulated into barges, pontoon bridges, work platforms and the like.

Conventionally, each floating section will include a plurality of connector systems and connector systems of adjacent floating sections are aligned with one another manually. Connection systems are then engaged between connector sites of adjacent floating sections, thereby coupling the two adjacent floating sections together. Calm sea conditions for articulation of the floating sections is not always possible. A particular problem in the prior art is to manually connect adjacent floating sections under rough sea conditions, where it is more difficult to align and engage the connection systems of adjacent floating sections. An alternative is to connect the various floating sections on land and thereafter for deployment at sea, but

this approach has serious limitations in terms of space and manpower requirements and time constraints.

To facilitate efficient assembly and disassembly, suitable means of connection between adjacent floating sections have been developed. One example of connection systems can be found in United States Patent No.

4,290, 382 ("Connector receiver for pontoon causeways"). It provides a system for interconnecting buoyant float sections in an articulated manner, a receiver assembly for automatically engaging a connector of a type having a longitudinally inclined nose section and a pair of transverse locking grooves. It includes a receiver assembly comprising a receiver housing with interior channel, a U-shaped locking guillotine member and a locking assembly. A cable has to be run through the receiver assembly to couple it to the connector as the alignment has to be relatively precise for engagement to take place and the resultant connection is rigid.

Another example is United States Patent No. 5,664, 517 ("Pontoon system and pontoon connecting system and process therefor"). It comprises pontoons coupled by cables for latch members to connect two pontoons together. The connection system is fairly complicated and needs winches to effectively draw the pontoons together since alignment has to be precise.

The resultant connection is again rigid with no option for maintaining some flexibility between the pontoons. A further example is United States Patent No. 5,735, 228 ("Barge linking system using flexible connectors"). It reveals a flexible connector and a chain sling mounted in a flexible sleeve adjacent thereto. It requires a winch assembly to be in-built in the barge to draw the barges together. It provides a flexible connection but no option for rigid connection is provided if additional restraint between the barges is required.

Thus, the above prior art have their problems and there is a need for connector systems that are more versatile in use to allow both flexible and

rigid connection and interchanging of connections at various points of the floating platforms, quicker to connect mating sections as well as more cost- effective to produce.

Summary of the invention The connecting assemblies of the present invention seek to overcome some of the disadvantages of the prior art mentioned above.

Using the invention, it is thus possible to provide connector assemblies for more versatile connection of adjacent float sections with reduced manpower requirements for such connection.

According to the invention there is provided a connector assembly for connecting adjacent members such as buoyant members characterised by two housings respectively adapted for mounting at a boundary of a member by one housing seating one bodily shiftable connector element and by the other housing being adapted to receive at least part of the one connector element for connecting the adjacent said members together on bodily shifting of the one connector element from one housing towards the other so as to be captive in both.

Connector assemblies embodying the invention are hereinafter described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings. It is to be understood that the particularity of the drawings and the related description is not to be understood as superseding the generality of the broad description of the invention as defined in the claims.

Brief Description of the Drawings Figure 1 is a perspective view of a first floating platform wherein there are affixed a plurality of connector slots capable of accommodating connector assemblies according to the invention.

Figures 2a to 2c are perspective views of a second floating platform that is articulated with the first floating platform in end-to-end, side-to-side and end-to-side configurations respectively.

Figure 3 is a side view of a rigid connector and housing according to the preferred embodiment of the invention wherein the rigid connector is engaged in the first platform and disengaged from the second platform.

Figure 4 is a side view of the rigid connector and housing of Figure 3 but with the rigid connector engaging both the first and second platforms so that rigid connection is provided between the first and second platforms.

Figure 5 is a side view of the rigid connector and housing of Figures 3 and 4, wherein the rigid connector is lifted and is about to engage the first and second platforms.

Figure 6 is a side view of a flexible connector and housings according to the preferred embodiment of the invention, wherein the flexible connector is lifted into a vertical position and is about to engage the first platform for flexibly connecting the first and second platforms.

Figure 7 is a side view of the flexible connector of Figure 6 wherein the flexible connector has been swung over to engage the first platform.

Figure 8 is an exploded perspective view of the male component of a housing capable of accommodating both the rigid connector and flexible connector.

Figure 9 illustrate views of the front and side elevations of the housing according to Figure 8.

Figure 10 is an exploded perspective view of the female component of the connector housing capable of accommodating both the rigid connector and flexible connector.

Figure 11 illustrate views of the front and side elevations of the housing according to Figure 10.

Figure 12 is a perspective view of a rigid connector box frame.

Figure 13 illustrate plan and elevation sectional views of the rigid connector, particularly showing in more detail the slider element of the rigid connector.

Figures 14a to 14c illustrate front, plan and side elevation views of the flexible connector according to the preferred embodiment of the invention.

Detailed description of a preferred embodiment of the invention Figure 1 is a perspective view of a first floating platform 10 wherein there are affixed a plurality of housings or connector slots 12,14 capable of accommodating connector assemblies according to the invention. In the preferred embodiment, there are two types of connector slots, namely connector slots 12 for providing a flexible or articulated connection of the platform 10 with a similar platform 10', and connector slots 14 for providing a substantially rigid connection of the platform 10 with a similar platform 10'.

The connector slots 12,14 can be located at any position along the edges of the floating platform, but they are preferably arranged in a standardized fashion in relation to other floating platforms so that each connector slot corresponds in position to a connector slot located on an adjacent floating platform for articulation purposes. As a result, the points of connection between platforms 10,10'can be interchangeable to produce a variety of articulation configurations as shown in Figures 2a to 2c.

The main functional difference between the flexible connector slots 12 and the rigid connector slots 14 is that the flexible connector slots 12 contain assemblies which allow some relative vertical movement between the platforms 10,10'. As a consequence, they are easier to engage in more volatile water conditions. They are also more appropriate for use in connecting the ends of platforms. On the other hand, the rigid connector slots 14 have assemblies which allow little or no relative movement between the platforms 10,10'. They are more appropriate for connecting the sides of platforms. Moreover, the flexible connector is also used as a first step to restrain motion between the platforms so as to facilitate rigid connection. Thus, the flexible connector slots 12 and rigid connector slots 14 can be used in combination, such that the flexible connector slots 12 (which are more easily engaged) can be used for to substantially restrain the relative movement between the two platforms before the rigid connector slots 14 are engaged.

Figures 2a to 2c are perspective views of a second floating platform 10'that is articulated with the first floating platform 10 in end-to-end, side-to-side and end-to-side configurations respectively. It illustrates the interchangeability of the connections. Figure 2a shows the first floating platform 10 and the second floating platform 10'joined at their respective ends. It would be noted that the ends are joined at the flexible connector

slots 12, which in this case, is preferable so that some relative movement between the respective floating platforms 10, 10' is allowed.

Figure 2b shows the first floating platform 10 and the second floating platform 10'joined at their sides. In this case, it is preferable that both the rigid and flexible connector slots 14 are engaged to provide rigidity to the articulation. Figure 2c shows the end of the second floating platform 10' joined to the side of the first floating platform 10. In this arrangement, it is preferable that only the corresponding flexible connector slots 12 are engaged.

Figure 3 is a side view of a rigid connector and housing according to the preferred embodiment of the invention wherein the rigid connector 20 in the form of a box-like articulation member is engaged in a housing 14 in the first platform 10 and disengaged from the second platform 10'. The rigid connector 20 sits in the male connector housing 22 located in the first platform 10. There is a corresponding female rigid connector housing 24 located in the second floating platform 10'for engagement-by the rigid connector 20. Fenders 26 are located at the sides of each floating platform 10, 10' to avoid collision damage between the two platforms. Additional, the fenders 26 are also used to set the distance between the platforms so that they are adequately separated to utilise the flexible and rigid connectors 12,14, during a connection operation.

The rigid connector 20 includes means in the form of a shaft 30 to assist lifting. The shaft 30 is pivotally connected to the rigid connector 20 at a position near the top 33 of the shaft and to the first platform at a position at the bottom end 34 of the shaft. To aid in the lifting of the rigid connector 20 by applying a lifting force to the lifting bar 38, a helical spring 32 providing biaising force in the direction of the said lifting force is included to the shaft 30. The second platform 10'can be moved towards the first platform 10 for

positioning of the connector slots 12,14 by the use of any conventional means, such as the use of ropes.

Figure 4 is a side view of the rigid connector and housing of Figure 3 but with the rigid connector 20 engaging both the first and second platforms 10, 10' so that rigid connection is provided between the first and second platforms. It is to be noted that one stud 94 of the rigid connector 20 sits in a socket in the lower block housing 72 of the first platform 10 and the other stud 94 of the rigid connector 20 sits in a socket in the lower block housing 72'of the second platform 10'. In this position, relative movement between the first platform 10 and the second platform 10'is minimized or restrained.

Figure 5 is a side view of the rigid connector and housing of Figures 3 and 4, wherein the rigid connector 20 is lifted and is about to engage the first and second platforms 10,10'. The positions whereat the rigid connector 20 was at rest before being lifted by the lifting bar 38 is illustrated in shadow outline. It should be appreciated that the shaft 30 has been rotated about the pivot point 34, and during the lifting movement, the spring 32 aids the lifting of the rigid connector 20 from the"LIFT"position to the"RELEASE" position by providing an upwards force against the top end of the shaft 30.

The compressiblity of the spring 32 is approximately equivalent to the weight of the rigid connector 14, so that the weight of the rigid connector 14 to a user becomes substantially reduced when lifted.

Figure 6 is a side view of a flexible connector 50 and housing 52,54 according to the preferred embodiment of the invention, wherein the flexible connector 50 in the form of a pivotable link is lifted into a vertical position and is about to engage the first platform 10 for flexibly connecting the first and second platforms 10, 10'. The flexible connector 50 is initially housed in the male flexible connector housing 52 (as shown in shadow outline). It has a first end 56, which is pivotally connected to a shoot bolt 60, such that the

flexible connector 50 is capable of pivoting about the shoot bolt 60. The respective floating platforms 10, 10'enable the engagement of the respective platforms 10, 10'by the flexible connector 50.

Figure 7 is a side view of the flexible connector 50 of Figure 6 wherein the flexible connector 50 has been swung over to engage the first platform 10.

The second end 58 of the flexible connector 50 has been engaged by a second shoot bolt 62, thereby flexibly connecting the first platform 10 and the second platform 10'. It would be appreciated that the flexible connector 50 allows some flexibility in the connection as the platforms 10, 10' are allowed relative heaving movement. In this position, it would also be easier to engage the rigid connector 20 since the platforms 10, 10' are already adjacent to each other. As previously described, this can be used as a first step to restrain the platforms for rigid connection. Alternatively, the user has the option of only having a flexible connection as that situation requires.

Figure 8 is an exploded perspective view of the male component of a housing 22 capable of accommodating both the rigid connector 20 and flexible connector 50. The rigid connector 20 is positioned within the male connector housing 22 with its base and studs 94 resting within the lower block housing 72. The rigid connector 20 can be secured in the male connector housing by locking means in the form of a shoot bolt 66 located within the shoot bolt housing 70.

The flexible connector 50 can be positioned in the male connector housing 22 at the position of the shoot bolt 62, to which the second end 58 of the flexible connector 50 is pivotally engaged. Another shoot bolt 64 enables the flexible connector 50 to be fully secured within the male connector housing 22, if that is desired.

Figure 9 illustrate views of the front and side elevations of the male connector housing 22 according to Figure 8. The rigid connector 20 and the flexible connector 50 are contained within the male connector housing 22. (For the flexible connector, 50, there is technically not differentiation between a male or female housing since its position is fully interchangeable either way. The stud 94 at the base of the rigid connector 20 is resting on the lower block housing 72. A pair of sliders 76 engage the sides of the rigid connector 20 and rest on slide guides 78 supported by tension springs 32. There are slide guide supports 80 to support the slide guides 78 with respect to the male connector housing 22.

As previously mentioned, the tension springs 32 bias the rigid connector 20 in an upwards direction against the weight of the rigid connector 20, but since the force is only slightly less than the weight of the rigid connector 20, it rests on the base of the male connector housing 22. Therefore, when the rigid connector 20 is to be lifted from engagement with the lower block housing 72, the weight is reduced by the assisting force provided by the tension springs 32, thereby assisting in the lifting process. In prior art, it would require at least two strong men to operate such a rigid connector in calm sea. The design of the invention allows one man to operate the device up to sea-state 3.

Figure 10 is an exploded perspective view of the female component of the connector housing 24 capable of accommodating both the rigid connector 20 and flexible connector 50. The female connector housing 24 includes stopper guides 82 to guide the rigid connector 20 to the correct position in the base of the female connector housing 24 when the rigid connector 20 is lifted from the lower block housing 72 of the first platform 10 into engagement with the lower block housing 72'of the second platform 10'.

The female connector housing 24 similarly has a number of shoot bolts 60,64', 66' corresponding to the shoot bolts found on the male connector

housing 22. A corresponding shoot bolt housing 52'for the flexible connector 50 and a corresponding shoot bolt housing 70'for the rigid connector 20 are also found on the female connector housing 24.

Figure 11 illustrate views of the front and side elevations of the female connector housing 24 according to Figure 10. It further illustrates the location of the stopper guides 82 from a front perspective. Shoot bolt supports 74'that support the shoot bolts 68'are also illustrated.

Figure 12 is a perspective view of the box frame of a rigid connector 20. It includes an upper block 90 that includes a lifting bar 38 for lifting the rigid connector 20 in order to engage an adjacent platforms 10,10'. There is also a lower block 92 including a pair of studs 94 to engage corresponding depressions in the lower block housings 72, 72' of the male connector housing 22 and female connector housing 24 respectively.

Figure 13 illustrate plan and elevation sectional views of the rigid connector 20, particularly showing in more detail the slider element of the rigid connector 20. The plan view of the rigid connector 20 shows the body frame 102 having a swivel rod 104 located in between its two sides. There are sliders 76 outside the opposite sides of the body frame 102 for facilitating sliding movement of the rigid connector 20. A slider guide 78 is located adjacent the slider 76 for guiding the sliding action.

The elevation view shows the body frame 102 and the slider 76 that is attached to it. The sliders 76 are each supported on a compression spring 32 which biaises the sliders 76 in an upwards direction to oppose the weight of, amongst other things, the body frame 102 and slider 76. The sliding action of the slider 76 is guided by its relative movement along the slider guide 78.

Figures 14a to 14c illustrate front, plan and side elevation views of the flexible connector 50 according to the preferred embodiment of the invention. Figure 14a is a front elevation view of the flexible connector 50 including a first end 56 and a second end 58 consisting of cheek plates.

There are holes at each end 56,58 of the flexible connector 50 to accommodate shoot bolts 60,62 to engage either or both ends of the flexible connector 50 when the flexible connector 50 is located in adjacent shoot bolt housings 52,52'. A number of handles 110 are positioned on the body of the flexible connector 50 to aid in the lifting of the flexible connector 50 during pivotal or other movement of the flexible connector 50.

Figure 14b and 14c show the different perspectives of the flexible connector 50 of Figure 14a.

Due to the type of connectors, the number of connectors that can be affixed to floating sections, and their versatility and interchangeability, it is possible to envisage their use on different shapes and sizes of floating sections. It would be appreciated that the use of the various alignment mechanisms (eg. fenders, flexible connectors and rigid connectors) in combination speeds up the connection of the floating sections.

While a particular embodiment of the invention has been shown and described, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that changes and modifications of the present invention may be made without departing from the invention in broadest aspects. As such, the scope of the invention should not be limited by the particular embodiment and specific construction described herein but should be defined by the appended claims and equivalents thereof. Accordingly, the aim in the appended claims is to cover all such changes and modifications as fall within the spirit and scope of the invention.