Offshore Wind Could Be a Lifeline OSV Operators Need

Offshore wind has the potential to provide offshore service vessel (OSV) operators with an alternative market and an opportunity for specialisation, offering an escape from other sectors hit hard by low prices of oil and gas, according to shipping and offshore markets analyst Clarksons.  

If the developments in November are an indication of things to come, the offshore wind industry could offer respite to the offshore market as both approved and proposed projects are getting increasingly deeper and further from shore.

DONG made a final investment decision (FID) regarding the Walney Extension in the Irish Sea, which will become the largest fixed offshore wind farm yet.

Statoil has reached a FID for the pilot Hywind floating wind farm, moored to the sea floor offshore Scotland. The departure from traditional fixed turbines opens up the opportunity for more ambitious, deepwater projects, Clarksons says.

Technological advances, such as the Hywind, at least push the industry in a helpful direction for offshore as a whole, according to Clarksons.

With wind farms moving further from shore and into rougher waters, Clarksons expects a rise in demand for wind turbine installation vessels. As of November 2015, 31 WTI vessels were active globally.

On the other hand, the maintenance phase of offshore wind farms has the ability to absorb more traditional vessels in the North Sea. A handful of PSVs and MSVs have been converted into accommodation vessels for maintenance personnel.

However, in reality the main demand is for small crew transfer vessels, usually with a LOA of <25m. The crew transfer fleet has grown substantially from approximately 40 units in 2010 to over 200 in 2015.

For now, Clarksons sees offshore wind as a niche market rather than a viable alternative for the mainstream fleet, with future growth being largely dependent on how attitudes of governments and private companies will evolve.

However, if the momentum picked up in November continues further, then the industry might be able to absorb a significant portion of the idle offshore fleet.

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