Port of Ostend: Offshore wind force

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Every one working in the Port of Ostend is confident that renewable energy is the future. The port community is banking on the offshore wind sector as the promising alternative to the declining ferry market. “It does not mean that the port is likely to neglect ferries, but it is evident that after 160 years the ferry business is under pressure. Now the Port of Ostend has to focus on a promising niche market.” 

Port of Ostend Managing Director Paul Gerard is aware of critics including the current port users, they were in doubt of the profitability of offshore wind energy, but now they have apparently become speechless since more and more businesses are following the port’s strategic choice to become a hub for renewable energy. The projects under construction on the Belgian continental shelf are evidence of the potential capacity of the country’s offshore wind energy. The Port of Ostend can only win from this situation.

Bigger and heavier

With C-Power’s choice for the latest 6MW turbines it becomes of vital importance that ports will have to be able to handle heavier components. “We’ll have to adapt the terminal and infrastructure for these heavy lifts”, Mr Gerard told Offshore WIND. “The 20 hectares terminal will soon be fit for offshore projects, but it has to bear 20 tonnes per square metre, rather than the existing 4 to 6 tonnes per square metre. Today, 65 metres of quay is ready for that. We’ll extend it to a 200 metres total length in the near future.”

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The total investment in the terminal, which used to be dedicated to receive the Cobelfret ferries, is €15m. “The port authority alone cannot invest such amount, and it is difficult to get banks interested for co-funding. That is why we have established an infrastructure development company called REBO (Renewable Energy Base Oostende), involving various participants. 40% of the stakes are hold by PMV, the independent investment company in Flanders, 30% by dredging company DEME, 15% by the contractors group Artes and the remainder by the Port of Ostend.”

REBO commissioned dredging company Decloedt and contractor Depret to build the heavy load quay length at Zeewezendok which is to be leased by C-Power. This company will assemble and ship the wind turbines from the terminal to Thornton Bank, the second and third phases of which are due in 2012 and 2013, with 24 additional foundations and wind turbines being constructed and installed 30 kilometres off the Belgian coast. It is understandable that Gerard is proud to add that people in trade and industry believe in the future of offshore wind energy. The Belgian authorities are confident enough to grant a 25 years lasting concession permit. The outlook for the C-Power project is promising.

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Otary: Combining forces

In early 2011 a research centre was opened in Ostend. Sustainable energy producers Electrawinds and Aspiravi, investment and development businesses Rent-a-Port and Power@Sea, dredging company DEME, environmental organisation SRI Environment and the Flemish and Wallonia energy companies Nuhma and Socofe are combining their existing experience and knowledge of construction and working with offshore wind farms in the new Otary research centre. Otary will be involved in development and construction of the offshore wind farms Rentel and Seastar.

All initiatives are proof that Ostend’s claim that ‘the port will be the offshore energy hub’ will become reality.

Janny Kok