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In Memoriam - Dr. ir. Johan E. W. Wichers

Dr. ir. Johan E. W. Wichers died of cancer on May 23, 2012.

Dr. Wichers was an expert in the effects of waves on offshore moored vessels, especially on fixed point offshore moorings of oil tankers discharging or taking on cargo. He was in demand as an expert witness, as well as a design engineer.

Dr. Wichers did research for the dredging industry in his early years, and later concentrated exclusively on the oil industry.

For the dredging industry, he presented a paper at the Ninth World Dredging Conference, held in Vancouver, B.C. in October 1980. Entitled, “On the Forces on a Cutter Suction Dredger in Waves,” the paper described research he had done on behalf of IHC Holland at the Netherlands Ship Model Basin, (later MARIN – the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands).

In 1983, he presented a paper, co-written with Nico van Drimmelen of IHC Smit, at the 10th World Dredging Congress in Singapore, entitled, On the Forces on the Cutter Head and the Spud of a Cutter Suction Dredger Operating in Waves. Van Drimmelen also worked with Dr. Wichers on oil spill recovery, such as the combi-hopper dredge Cosmos.

According to Ruud Ouwerkerk, president of Dredge Technology Corporation, the U.S. subsidiary of IHC, studies of this type were considered advanced for those days.
“My WEDA paper of last year documented that the modeling of sea state came back in the mid-2000s for the jumbo dredges,” Ouwerkerk told IDR.

In 2007, Dr. Wichers was awarded the Fellowship of the SNAME (Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers), and in 2010 received the ASCE OTC (American Society of Civil Engineers – Offshore Technology Conference) Hall of Fame Award for pioneering innovation and lasting impact for OTC Paper No. 2548, 1976. During the OMAE 2011 (Ocean Offshore & Arctic Engineering) conference in Rotterdam, a special Johan Wichers symposium on Mooring of Floating Structures in Waves was organized honoring his contributions to the field.

“More than anyone else Johan knew how to transfer his enthusiasm for offshore engineering to his colleagues and clients,” said a memorial written by colleages at MARIN. “With his curiosity, insight, energy and commitment he went deep. His knowledge and experience are therefore anchor points to many. We will miss his unique personality in the international maritime community,” the memorial continued.

Dr. Wichers received his M.Sc. degree in coastal and offshore engineering in 1973 and his Ph.D. in applied mathematics in 1988, both from the University of Technology of Delft, the Netherlands. His dissertation was entitled, “A Simulation Model for a Single Point Moored Tanker.”

He started as project manager in the offshore department of MARIN in Wageningen in 1973. From 1989 to 1998, he was project manager in the Offshore Department. Dr. Wichers was strongly involved in the initiative and design of the new MARIN basins from 1993 to 1998. In 1998, he became vice-president MARIN USA and managed the MARIN affiliate in Houston.

He retired from MARIN in 2006, but remained very active through his consultancy office WMooring, Inc. in Houston, flying several times a year between between his home in Heelsum, Holland and Houston, where he maintained an office, and where his son Sjoerd had moved and was working in the oil industry.

The contribution of Dr. Wichers to the field of mooring of floating structures in wave, wind and current made a profound impact in the way the design of mooring systems was carried out. His personal contributions included the development of the concept of wave drift damping, which was found to be a crucial element in assessing of the extreme loads in the mooring. Also, he pioneered in many studies on the viscous contributions induced by the low frequency motions. He was also involved in the development of the MARIN mooring programs for SPMs (single point moorings), jetty moorings and FPSOs (floating production, storage and offloading). He published more than 60 papers on the topic of floating moored structures.

Sjoerd Wichers told IDR that his father was diagnosed with a brain tumor in February 2012 during a sojourn in Houston. He was transported back to Holland following surgery, and died on May 23 surrounded by his wife Anneke, children Annet, Marike and Sjoerd, and their spouses and children. Toward the end, he said, “I’ve had a good life,” which comes as no surprise to those who knew him, as Dr. Wichers was unfailingly happy and always enjoyed whatever he was doing.

He is sorely missed.

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