Pillar of support

Wind farms are impossible to both construct and maintain without a fleet of ocean-going vessels on standby. With the offshore sector reaching maturity, a new generation of ships offers greater comfort and far higher environmental standards than their antecedents. Andrea Valentino chats to James Lewis, a business sector lead at BMT, and Graham Tyson, a marine specialist at MHI Vestas, about the role ships play in a turbine’s lifespan, how the latest models are helping engineers and the planet alike, and how these ships might develop in future.


magine, if you can, a patch of sea from above – that you’re gazing down on the waves and the water from hundreds of feet up into the air. If you’re not too far from land, and you’re over any number of places from the Long Island Sound to the North Sea off England, you’re likely to see more than just the brownish blue of the water. Instead, you’ll see wind turbines – hundreds and hundreds of them – lined up in neat rows as if they’re planning an amphibious landing. Stare hard enough and you’ll probably see ships too, coming and going for hours and hours, their engines puttering, their white wakes shimmering up to you. Nor should you be very surprised by this hive of activity. From small maintenance ships, little bigger than humble fishing trawlers, to leviathans as big as football pitches – offshore vessels come in a bewildering array of shapes and sizes. Huge, too, is the appetite for new models, a product of

World Wind Technology /

environmental pressures forcing design changes and the realisation among operators that retrofits of existing ships will prove increasingly untenable as time goes on. Although statistics for the industry at large are scarce, the global market for installation vessels alone is forecast to reach $2.6bn by 2025, up 15% compared with 2020.

Of course, between the architectural drawings and the coastal farm there’s a canyon of hard work – not least months of meticulous research, collaboration with shipowners and specific design decisions that take several factors into account, making a new vessel perfect for the farm it’s destined to service. But get it right and shipbuilders are proving just how successful this new generation of offshore vessels can be, making life more comfortable for the crew and more affordable for the owners – even if the environmental side effects of all these new ships risk undermining their many


ORE Catapult; Teun van den Dries/

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