WTIVs: Wind Turbine Installation Vessels: New optimism

The rugby world cup tournament is about to start in England as this article is being written. Just as the rugby fans will have waited 4 years for the whistle to announce the start of the first match, England versus Fiji, so the offshore wind industry has waited eagerly for the whistle to start for some other big international events – namely the planned new offshore wind farms.

It was January 2010 when Gordon Brown, the then prime minister of the UK, announced the Round 3 licences to be awarded. Today Round 3 is not quite the same, some of the venues have withdrawn from the tournament, some of the teams have not been able to qualify to play at this level for various reasons, and some of the players have had to drop out through injuries, but now in late 2015 the start is in sight. However, I promise there will be no more rugby comparisons for now, because it is very likely that some of you are not even aware that this world cup tournament was even going to take place.

My point is that after 5 years of saying that it will happen ‘next year’, now it is really looking as though next year, in 2016, we will be able to say ‘next year’ with real confidence and optimism.

The new found confidence is starting to have an effect on the Wind Farm Installation Vessel sector. Slowly we are seeing orders being made and confidence is building. Although, since last year, to date there have been no new jack up vessels handed over from a ship yard. However there have been existing vessels sold to, and bought by, existing operators.

New owners

The first WTIV to change owners this year was from Offshore Logistics Company (OLC), a subsidiary of RWE Innogy, who sold the Bremerhaven registered jack up, Victoria Mathias, to the Vroon Group company, MPI. Built in 2011 by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering in South Korea, the vessel was renamed the MPI Enterprise and re-flagged to the Netherlands. Early in January 2015 the vessel joined the MPI Offshore fleet which includes the ‘mother of them all’, MPI Resolution and her two younger sisters, the MPI Discovery and MPI Adventure.
This new addition added another 1,000-tonne-capacity main crane to their fleet, along with a maximum operating depth of 45 metres and the ability to jack with 4,350 tonnes of cargo on board. In addition to the vessel itself, MPI also purchased a range of installation equipment, including a pile hammer, pile gate, specialist lifting tackle and numerous vessel spares, all of which complement the vessel’s operations. At the time this WTIV was working in Germany on contract for the RWE Innogy’s own offshore windfarm Nordsee Ost off the German coast, and this contract was completed by the new owner.

The sale of the vessel to another operator had been foreseen for some time as part of RWE’s strategy to divest the company of their marine vessel operations. The Friedrich Ernestine, sister vessel to the Victoria Mathias, is still owned by the German company, and is working on a 5 year bareboat charter signed with the Chinese joint venture company ZPMC Profundo Wind Energy Co., Ltd. in December last year and started early this year, after completing the already contracted work with RWE Innogy in Germany and the UK.

A second WTIV has recently changed hands, following the sale of Hochtief’s marine assets. In October last year HOCHTIEF sold all its offshore assets to marine contractor and long-term partner GeoSea. The sale gave GeoSea full control of jack-up vessels Innovation and Thor. The Vidar was to be transferred upon completion of the then current HOCHTIEF project. However on Tuesday 15 September, Jan De Nul Group signed to take over the Vidar to add to the company’s growing offshore fleet of vessels to service the offshore wind sector. This nascent fleet includes the multipurpose cable laying and rock installation vessel Isaac Newton which was launched in March this year and two more similar vessels which are also planned. The Vidar was delivered to Hochtief in December 2013 by the Polish Crist Shipyard in Gdynia. It has a 1,200t crane, 3,400m2 deck space and has a maximum water depth of 50m for jacking up.

Ready for Delivery

Undoubtedly the biggest news this year in this sector is the imminent handover to Seajacks UK of the Seajacks Scylla by Samsung Heavy Industries at the Geoje shipyard in Korea. It has been said before about new vessels, but now it can certainly be said again: “This new WTIV is bigger in every dimension than the previously largest vessel.” The main deck area is 5,000m2, it will have over 8,000t of available variable load, the main deck length is 139m and the beam is 50m, the maximum working water depth is 65m, it has accommodation for 130 persons, the list goes on, and on, and on…

One of the most outstanding features is the main crane, wrapped around the starboard aft leg. This crane, built by Huisman, can lift 1,500t at a maximum radius of 31.5m, when jacked up. When the vessel is floating it can still lift up to 800t. The auxiliary crane has a maximum lift of 600t and a maximum radius of 63m. When it is handed over later this year Seajacks UK Ltd will be the owners of the largest and most advanced offshore wind farm installation vessel in the world.

The cover of the October 2014 edition of Offshore WIND portrayed the latest GustoMSC design, NG-5500X, a vessel very similar to the Seajacks Scylla. We can now publish photographs of this vessel undergoing sea trials off Korea, prior to being dry shipped by a heavy lift transport vessel to Europe, in time for Christmas.

More Contracts

An indication of the optimism and confidence described in the start of this article is evident with this vessel, already it is lined up with two contracts.

The first contract to be confirmed for the vessel was with DONG Energy for the Walney Extension offshore wind farm due to start in Q2 2017 for the transportation and installation of all 87 wind turbines. The turbines will be 47 of the Siemens SWP-7.0-154 units and 40 of the MHI Vestas V164 8.2MW.

The second contract to be announced by the UK WTIV operator is for the transport and installation of 67 monopiles at the Veja Mate 400MW wind farm, over 120km off the German coast, North West of the island of Borkum. The XL monopiles, up to 85m in length and exceeding 1,300 tonnes in weight, will be loaded in the Dutch port of Eemshaven as from April 2016.
Veja Mate Wind Farm is far offshore in deep water, and requires a large installation jack-up that can ‘ensure safe and efficient transport and installation of XL monopiles’, exactly what GustoMSC designed her to do.

WTIV owners A2SEA have also got an optimistic current and future outlook with contracts lined up for work which includes Gode Wind 2+1, Burbo Bank Ext. OWF, Race Bank OWF and Dudgeon OWF for their vessels.

In another sector, O&M, DBB Jack-Up Services A/S have secured an extension to their framework agreement signed in December 2014 with MHI Vestas Offshore Wind A/S for offshore wind operations and maintenance services until the end of 2017.

Fred. Olsen Windcarrier is finding work on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, working within the restrictions of Jones Act protecting U.S. trade for U.S. built ships for U.S. owners and crew, and will install the first offshore wind farm in the US, The Block Island Wind Farm, in the summer of 2016.

The company has been awarded another contract by Siemens AG, for the transport and installation of 67 Siemens 6MW wind turbines, at the Veja Mate 400MW wind farm. This construction work is expected to start in early 2017. Fred. Olsen Windcarrier opened its first German business unit in Hamburg in January this year, the office will be the centre of business development activity for the company’s interests in the German offshore wind market.
As we go to press it was announced that Adwen has awarded Fred. Olsen Windcarrier International Ltd. a contract for the German Wikinger Offshore Wind Farm in the Baltic Sea, to transport and install 70 Adwen 5 MW WTGs.
Due to start in Q1 2017, it is expected to be completed during Q3 2017, with an option to extend the contract for up to 6 months.

It has not been determined yet which of their two vessels will carry out the work. The contract also includes the provision of installation technicians from another Fred. Olsen company, Global Wind Service A/S

Dick Hill