Various important types of offshore structure contain significant nonlinearities or time-varying coefficients in their equations of motion. Well-known examples include tension leg platforms, free-hanging risers, single-buoy moorings, ships moored against fenders and vessels constrained by stiffening moorings. When subject to sinusoidal wave excitation, time domain mathematical models of these structures can display large subharmonic or chaotic motions. This paper shows that such behavior is often an artifact of the regularity of the excitation and is usually unlikely to present a significant problem in a random sea. Narrow-band vessel response can, however, generate near-harmonic motions to create conditions in which these instabilities may become important.

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