Specially trained crews can help vessel providers meet the demands of offshore windfarm developers

June 15, 2018

Ian Robertson, HR Manager, Seajacks

Offshore wind continues to make its way into the public and political mainstream. We are increasingly seeing stories about new windfarms being commissioned and how these have the capability to power swathes of homes and businesses around the world.

From the recent news that Crown Estate Scotland published proposals to lease new seabed zones to windfarm developers, through to the announcement of two windfarm developments on the East Coast of the United States totalling 1200MW, offshore wind is growing on a global scale. Whether this is down to increased public and governmental demand for clean energy, the reducing costs of developing windfarms or technological innovations, it is great to see the industry going from strength to strength.

However, as more offshore windfarm contracts are awarded to developers and demand increases, these firms will be looking to their supply chains to ensure they can provide the tools and staff needed to complete projects on time and to specification; whilst also being able to handle the latest technology in an ever-developing industry.

Offshore windfarms are becoming increasingly advanced as innovations mean turbines are now bigger and more efficient than ever before. An example of this innovation was highlighted recently when GE revealed its next-generation offshore wind turbine, Haliade-X, a 12MW turbine that will generate 67GWh of power a year, with orders expected to be shipped out in 2021.

Such increases in demand and technological advancements mean suppliers need to ensure they have a pool of skilled staff and capable equipment, or if not, face losing out to rivals in what is already a competitive marketplace.

This need to provide suitably trained employees and equipment is particularly relevant for installation vessel providers. Installation vessels play a vital role in the development of offshore windfarms and must have the crew and capability to install turbines efficiently. This is a challenge for vessel operators. Technological developments, such as larger turbines, mean many vessels are unable to meet developers’ requirements for new projects, whilst some of these vessels’ crews are made up of contractors that may not have the knowledge or experience, working on the ship, needed to operate it to the optimum standard.

Installation vessels able to meet the requirements of new projects can be as technical and complex as the offshore windfarms they are working on. As such, the crews that man them require knowledge of how these vessels operate so they can begin work straight away on windfarm projects, completing them on time, to specification and budget.

This is not to say there are no benefits to hiring contracted staff to crew installation vessels. This can be an efficient way of working for operators that do not have the capability to retain large crews on their payroll for extended periods of time. However, contractors who have general skill-sets may not fully grasp how a specific advanced installation vessel operates, as they have no previous experience or training on how to use it efficiently. This could mean projects take longer to complete as crews new to a vessel require more time to get accustomed to the vessel.

At Seajacks, we believe that the best way to meet developers’ demands is to train and recruit the crews that man our vessels in-house. Our crews are taught on the vessels they will be operating, learning how the ships work and how to operate them efficiently and effectively. Because of this, developers can be confident the vessels we supply them with and the crews which operate them are the best available, something that may not be guaranteed if a crew is fully assembled from contractors.

This method of operating has paid dividends, as shown by the success of projects our vessels and crews have worked on. One example of this can be seen at the recent completion of our work on the Walney Extension offshore windfarm. On this project, our largest and most advanced installation jackup vessel, Scylla, and her crew were tasked with installing 40 MHI Vestas 8MW turbines and 47 Siemens Gamesa 7MW turbines on what, when completed, will be the world’s biggest offshore windfarm. Thanks to the highly skilled and dedicated crew that operate Scylla, installation at the windfarm was completed ahead of schedule. Having originally been contracted to install all the turbines in 246 days, Scylla and her crew completed work on the project four weeks before the contract ended.

Offshore windfarm development looks set to continue, increasing the world over as demand for new, clean energy sources grows and the technology advances. All of us in the supply chain need to be ready and able to meet the demands of developers, providing them with the tools needed to build windfarms quickly and efficiently. When it comes to installation vessels, whilst the quality of the ship is highly important, ensuring these are operated by specially trained crews could go a long way to guarantee installation is completed to a high standard and on time or even ahead of schedule, resulting in happy developers and high-quality windfarms.

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