Vessels serving offshore wind farms could make Hull their home too - council officer claims

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 14 Dec 2017

Hull could also welcome a fleet of vessels servicing offshore wind farms in the North Sea, a senior council officer has claimed, as he revealed hopes of attracting a tower manufacturer the the Humber have faded.

A major service sector for wind farms has developed in Grimsby over the past decade, with eyes firmly fixed on the huge pipeline of developments still to come.

But Hull City Council's director of regeneration, Mark Jones MBE, believes the North Bank could become the home port for a new generation of support vessels capable of reaching more distant offshore wind farms currently being planned or built.

Speaking at a council scrutiny meeting, he said: "Most of the support vessels based in Grimsby which currently service the near water farms are not designed to service the more distant Dogger (Bank) farms.

"Potentially, new vessels being developed to service areas like Dogger could operate out of Hull."

Visit to the Humber Gateway wind farm

Mr Jones said the recent announcement of a new £2m centre of excellence project between the University of Hull and offshore operations and maintenance research organisation ORE Catapult could be the first step towards developing a new fleet of service vessels based in Hull, although South Bank officials harbour hopes of Grimsby benefiting from this too.

"The current offer from Hull and Grimsby is entirely complementary," he said. "They can offer servicing for the near water whereas we can offer major manufacturing with Siemens Gamesa.

The Westermost Rough offshore wind farm

"Now we will also have a centre of excellence looking at how these huge offshore wind farms are going to operated and maintained over a 25-year period."

However, next generation vessels have already been revealed for the Hornsea offshore wind zone, with Ørsted (formerly Dong Energy) setting up, and now expanding, its huge base and quayside facilities in Royal Dock, Grimsby. 

The expansion from Port of Grimsby East underlines the development of the industry, with work underway to maximise the use of the larger port - with the scale that has seen it welcome car carriers daily - with the removal of an old jetty.  

Norwegian ship owner Østensjø Rederi is supplying two service operation vessels to be based there. They will be more than 80m in length, 17m wide and will accommodate 40 technicians, as the industry moves to an oil and gas model with teams staying out in the field for a set period of time. 

Helicopters are also going to become increasingly important in the transfer of workers

Mr Jones also admitted initial hopes of attracting an offshore wind turbine tower manufacturer to Hull were now unlikely to be realised.

Pre-built towers are currently being shipped to the Siemens Gamesa factory in Hull where they are assembled and then shipped out to offshore wind farms along with the turbine blades made at the site, and the nacelles (where the critical generating equipment is housed above the tower), which are also imported.

Mr Jones said high investment costs and uncertain returns meant tower manufacturers were now concentrating on existing facilities.

Responding to the comments, Peter Wheatley, cabinet member for regeneration and skills at North East Lincolnshire Council, said: "Grimsby has long been established as a key location for supporting and serving the offshore wind farm industry, a fact fully recognised by the major players who operate out of here.

“Together with ABP, the council has worked productively with the industry to develop that offer, evidenced by the commitment we’ve attracted from companies like Ørsted and we’ll continue to maximise the opportunities and the benefits the port provides to the industry as it continues to develop.

“We’ve now established a reputation nationally and internationally as a place to do business and we’re confident that 2018 and beyond will re-inforce that view.’’

An ABP spokesperson said: “At ABP, we are delighted with the significant growth across all of our Humber ports within the offshore wind sector. The Port of Grimsby is currently blossoming due to the work that companies such as Ørsted are doing in supporting and maintaining the offshore wind market. Hull is also poised for further growth in this sector therefore we would be keen to explore any new business opportunities that may arise.”

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