Port of Rømø: A small port in a big game

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It takes a daring attitude to invest €4.5m in a 410m quay length, suited for oversized cargos, when one’s annual turnover does not exceed €600,000. The Port of Rama did exactly that two years ago, in anticipation of the Butendiek wind farm project starting just 40km from the port. The port’s Md Kristen Zedergaard is aware that, so far, the port had seen little wind energy related activities, “but we expect a lot to happen in 2013.”

The port of R0m0 is a small port but with big ambitions. “We don’t have much choice other than to be ambitious”, admits Mr Nedergaard, “as our regular sources of income from fishing and a ferry route are drying up. In such case there are only two options: to minimize one’s organisation according to the existing market developments or to go and look elsewhere for new ventures. Rather than looking eastwards, we chose to focus on opportunities in the North Sea. We found that the isle of R0m0 and its port are ideally situated for German wind farms and are, as such, ideally located to become a base port for offshore wind energy related activities.”

A few years ago Mr Nedergaard’s predecessor at the municipal port management realised that the port had to be geared up for the relatively new industry. Two years ago the board of the port decided to go ahead with the project. The businesslike character of the port management and the support of the T0nder municipality helped to make huge investments in the 410m quay length, storage facilities, and offices happen. “At the moment we have 10hs of business area linking directly with the new quay which can be activated on a short notice.” Mr Nedergaard explains. In the future an additional 25hs could become available if needed although it would require some heavy planning. Having the space available, R0m0 is busy attracting businesses looking for additional capacity for their work in the Esbjerg offshore wind cluster to add to those already established or planned. Danish shipping company, Blue Water Shipping, SubC Partner ApS and Q-STAR ENERGY already booked office space in anticipation of the go-ahead of the nearby Butendiek wind farm project for which wpd has secured the concession. This demonstrates that the core competencies of Esbjerg can be tapped into by the Port of R0m0 and that the port is part of the strong offshore wind cluster in Esbjerg. Mr Nedergaard: “We are currently also negotiating with a major German offshore logistics company to locate in R0m0. With Forde-Reederei GmbH (FRS – the ferryline and offshore crew boat agency), wpd, Siemens and this potential German logistics operator there will be a strong German representation in the port soon.”

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“Everything is in place”, Mr Nedergaard told Offshore WIND, adding that it is a matter of waiting for wpd to give the go-ahead, which is expected to happen towards the end of this year. One may expect that the suspense is killing all involved in the future business, but Mr Nedergaard coolly comments that all are ready for the job and, what he calls, the ‘catch up effect to gear activities up from 0 to 100’.

“Thus we can demonstrate that R0m0 has everything in place to take part in the offshore wind energy sector. There is a lot of talk about the profitability of wind energy, and it is understandable that the Port of R0m0 is one of the ‘wannabes’. However, our ambition is not based on promises, but on premises. Our partners know that – as an authority – we are not too difficult to work with. We aim at rendering tailor made services fit for our customers’ needs. Our company is municipality owned, but business driven and can rely on a strong local support. As such, R0m0 can really prove practice.”

That may well stir the feathers of the costal city of Esbjerg just north of R0m0 as it develops into Denmark’s leading offshore city. R0m0’s big strength, however, is that its port will be the closest to the northern German offshore wind turbines.

“When offshore wind turbines need to be serviced, proximity is absolutely the most important thing”, Nedergaard’s predecessor was quoted saying, adding that for the wind farm that will be located in the northern part of the German bay, it is 65 nautical miles from Esbjerg while there is only 27 nautical miles to the Port of R0m0. “The closest German port which is not troubled by low water, lies 120 nautical miles away.”

Janny Kok