BOW Terminal: A heavy-lift port

OW_1_spread.jpg 12 0The offshore wind energy industry is growing and several European ports have prepared, or are preparing, to provide the necessary logistics and storage services and facilities related to different construction & installation, O&M, and production phases of this industry. The wind farms are getting larger and moving into deeper waters further offshore resulting in bigger components that are needed to build these wind farms. However, not all ports are able to facilitate the large installation vessels necessary for the transhipment of theses heavy loads at their quays.

The availability of deep water, storage space, the absence of obstacles such as tidal locks, are only some of the factors determining the suitability of a port. One of them is the port of Vlisssingen, located at the mouth of the Western Scheldt, the most southerly river in the Netherlands.

At the end of November Offshore WIND went to Vlissingen to visit Breakbulk & Offshore Wind Terminal (BOW Terminal) who were busy with the loading of monopiles for the German Amrumbank wind farm. We were welcomed by Jean Pierre van Lieshout, Project Manager at BOW Terminal, at their new office at the terminal.

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BOW Terminal is part of the Kloosterboer Group, a large logistics provider with several terminals in the Netherlands, France, the USA and Canada. Mr van Lieshout himself has worked for many years at Kloosterboer before moving to BOW Terminal and the experience gained over the years has taught him all that is involved with handling large projects at the various stages of many different projects.

BOW Terminal was set up in 2010 specifically to handle large break-bulk cargos and offshore projects and the reason is obvious: the Port of Vlissingen has deep water, direct access to the sea with no locks or bridges and no tides to impede access by large vessels to the port, and good subsoil conditions to build strong quays and marshalling areas with easy inland access by main highways.

Due to its good location on the North Sea coast it can directly serve not only the Dutch wind farms but also neighbouring English and Belgian projects. Although in existence for only 4 years, BOW Terminal has already been involved with projects such as the London Array, Gunfleet Sands, Humber Gateway, Sheringham Shoal, Lines, Teesside, and Moray projects in the UK and Northwind in the Belgian sector.

But the terminal is not only serving the wind farms in the waters close to the port, but also the wind farms in the more distant waters of the northern and southern North Sea such as Anholt in Denmark, DanTysk on the Danish – German boarder waters, and other German wind farms Meerwind, and Amrumbank which is, as we would be seeing that day, their current project destination.

Port facilities

The terminal is ISO 9001 & OHSAS 18001 certified and has a surface of 20Ha with a total quayside length of 1740m of which 340m is reinforced quay. There is also over 100,000m2 of warehouse space which can be used for storage for the mobilisation and demobilisation phases of a project. The terminal has mobile harbour cranes and in 2012 the company invested in a Gottwald MK 1500, currently the largest fixed heavy lift crane in Europe.

With this crane the terminal can handle heavy loads of up to 1200 tonnes which is ideal for the ever increasing weight of components for the offshore wind industry. Mr van Lieshout: “The crane also provides the advantage of not having to mobilise and demobilise cranes, which in turn reduces costs. BOW Terminal has already built up an extensive experience in heavy lifts with over 1,800 heavy components lifted.”

The terminal has its own, in-house, Stevedoring Department. Around 10 permanent office personnel and 5 5 non-office personnel, working rotating shifts, ensure that the terminal can be operational 24/7. Mr van Lieshout  continues: “At the moment 60-70% of our activities are offshore wind related and we are expecting further growth in the future. At the peak of activity the terminal handled 100 monopiles and 60 transition pieces at the same time, for the wind farms DanTysk, Northwind, Amrumbank, and Humbergate.”

The specific involvement of the terminal varies depending on the project. The terminal is well suited for all preparatory activities for the final construction and maintenance of a wind farm. Mr van Lieshout: “We can take on several activities, from the first tendering stage of a contact to the final phase of the process.”

For example, with the German Amrumbank project the terminal was contracted by the foundation manufacturer rather than its developer E.ON, and is serving only as a storage and transhipment base for the monopiles whilst for the Northwind wind farm the terminal was used as a operating port for the complete foundations.

At the moment 2 installation vessels can berth at the terminal at the same time. The water depth (10,5m llws) and harbour width of 250m are large enough to accommodate all of the large installation vessels currently in the market. These vessels have priority over other vessels avoiding delays in the port entrance as much as possible.

Installation vessels that have worked on projects from the port include GeoSea’s Neptune, Oleg Strashnov, the MPI Resolution, and also the MPI Discovery which is in the port so frequently there is even a permanent agent for the vessel present at the terminal.

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BOW Terminal has plans for expansion. At the time of our visit they were making a start on a 175 metre quay expansing. When finished, which is expected in the first quarter of 2015, the total length of the quay will be 525 meters.

While looking around all the facilities BOW has to offer the industry it was hard to miss their giant heavy lift crane on the quay rising amid several monopiles marshalled, awaiting load out to Amrumbank. Further away there were the storage frames for the foundations that had been used here for the Northwind offshore wind project.

Case study: Amrumbank

There are carefully calculated procedures required to marshal all the specific parts of the installation from their place of manufacture to the nominated base port to ensure that they are on time and in the right place. In the case of the Amrumbank offshore wind farm, located 37km northwest off the island Helgoland, the 80 monopiles for the 3.6MW Siemens turbines are produced by Sif Group in Roermond in the Netherlands. Before the 60m long monopiles, each weighing 600t, have reached their final destination offshore they will have to complete a long journey through 2 ports using several vessels.

As the larger installation vessels can not reach the production facilities due to insufficient water depth, locks and bridges, the monopiles are transported on pontoons to Vlissingen, a journey that can take up to 26 hours.

Once arrived in the Port of Vlissingen, at BOW Terminal, they are marshalled on their premises awaiting the next and larger vessel, in this case the coaster Marietje Deborah, to arrive at the terminal to load them for shipping to the final terminal, Cuxport, in Cuxhaven, Germany, another journey of around 24 hours. Here they will be loaded onto yet another vessel, the actual installation vessel that will take them to the wind farm field for installation.

Sif Group was responsible for all the transportation stages of the piles from their place of manufacture to the wind farm.

In this particular case the Port of Vlissingen was used as an intermediate load out and storage port rather than base port, and BOW Terminal was responsible for the logistics that are required from the moment the pontoon enters the terminal with the monopiles up to the moment the Marietje Deborah is loaded and sails for Cuxport, Germany.

When the pontoon arrives it is berthed under the reach of the heavy lift crane which takes the monopiles, one at a time, and positions it on a Self Propelled Modular Transporter (SPMT). The SPMT, permanent on site and operated by BOW Terminal, carefully takes the monopile to the storage area and returns to pick up the next monopile. This same SPMT is later used to take them to the coaster, Marietje Deborah, for load out.

We were just in time to witness the loading of a second monopile onto Marietje Deborah. The pontoon which transported the monopiles from the foundation manufacturer to the terminal was still moored next to the coaster. The Marietje Deborah can carry 2 monopiles at a time. With the 24 hour journey each way, loading and discharge, it is possible to make 2 round trips per week. At that time 22 of the 80 monopiles had already been shipped to Cuxport. Each step is carefully calculated in advance, making sure that no time is wasted and that the coaster can be loaded the moment she arrives at the terminal. A heavy lift supervisor is at the scene to keep a keen eye on the process because, as Mr van Lieshout stressed: “We try to make the entire process as quick as possible, but of course in a safe and responsible way because if something goes wrong, it really goes wrong!”

And indeed the loading of this cargo on to the Marietje Deborah went smoothly. While the heavy lift crane is operated by a single person there were several other personnel necessary, ranging from the supervisor to riggers, skid operator, hoisting personnel, and sling operators, working around the crane and also on-board the Marietje Deborah to ensure each monopile is slowly but meticulously positioned on-board the vessel. Mr van Lieshout: “We arrange the shifts carefully, making sure that activities continue and breaks are planned during down time.”

While the whole procedure seems relatively easy and standard, he stressed that it is not just simply about placing the monopiles on-board the vessel. In each case you have to calculate the load, comparing the lightest and the heaviest and based on all this information write a load plan report which is sent on to the contractor.

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Sometimes you have to be inventive. “In this particular case we have done a lot of brainstorming on how we can best position the monopiles on-board the 12m wide Marietje Deborah without using a frame. In the end we came up with a concept that includes a new set of rigging including special designed triangle plates and soft slings  that keep each monopile in its place.” This has proven to be a successful concept. On the vessel itself a set of lights on each side of the wheelhouse indicated the trim of the vessel. A green light was displayed, confirming a correctly balanced position of the cargo… mission accomplished.

When this pile had been successfully loaded it was time for us to leave the BOW terminal, but the activities continued… preparing for the next loading.

Sabine Lankhorst