Offshore pipelines are generally subjected to variable amplitude (VA) loading in service due to waves or ocean currents. Welded joints often represent the most critical locations for fatigue cracking. Use of the current fatigue design guidance, for example, BS 7608, to assess fatigue performance of the welded joints in such structure may lead to inaccurate estimates depending on the nature of the VA loading spectrum. Further studies on the effect of VA loading spectra on fatigue performance of welded joints are needed. In this research, both uniaxial and 3-point bending fatigue tests were performed on non-load carrying fillet welded plates under VA loading spectra to investigate the effects of mean stress and the type of VA loading spectra. The influence of plate thickness was also investigated. Test results suggest that the spectrum with a high constant maximum tensile stress (cycling-down) could significantly degrade fatigue performance of welded joints, with the damage parameter D only at around 0.5. The severity of this type of loading spectrum depends on the mean stress level and the plate thickness. An analytical model has been developed to predict fatigue crack propagation (FCP) by considering the interaction of stresses in the loading spectrum. The model considers the impact of the mean stress generated by the preceding load on FCP in the subsequent cycles. FCP predicted by the model shows a good agreement with the experimental data.

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