French ports eye up UK Round 3 projects

FRANCE: While French ports are focusing on the November deadline for France's 3GW offshore tender, some also have their eyes on the opportunities across the Channel. Those closest to the English coast in particular hope to capture some of the UK market, whether as manufacturing hubs or base ports during the construction phase.

Dunkerque was used in the development of the Thanet offshore wind farm

The most likely targets are projects to be built along Britain's southern coast, from the Isle of Wight to the Thames Estuary. These alone represent a potential market of around 2.5GW.

"As some UK projects are constructed further from shore, the differential distances between UK ports and continental ports to the project may decrease, making continental facilities appear increasingly competitive with available UK facilities," said Rhys Thomas, supply chain officer at trade body Renewable UK. However, he added: "Distance is not necessarily the major consideration for developers, and the best available overall value site will win through."

Nevertheless, Dunkerque has already paved the way. Vestas used it as an operations base during construction of the 300MW Thanet project, in the Thames Estuary, and the port now hopes to attract manufacturing facilities. "The unique chance of Dunkerque is not the proximity of French projects, but the proximity of the north European markets," explained Frédéric Noyer, responsible for logistics and industrial development at the port. "If the port's development plan is to be sustainable, we also need to capture part of the market to install projects in British waters."

Further west, Le Havre is close to three of the five French projects. This, plus the port's logistical infrastructure, its training facilities and the overall quality of its offer, recently led Areva to select Le Havre for the construction of two factories producing nacelles and blades for its 5MW offshore turbine. These factories could possibly supply the UK market, while Le Havre could also act as a base for projects across the Channel.

Cherbourg lies in the midst of the French sites under offer, and is well placed to provide an assembly and installation base for projects off the Isle of Wight and Brighton. The southern English ports "do not have the technical characteristics regarding the depth of water and land available," argued Jean-Michel Sevin, director general of the Ports of Normandy Authority (PNA), whereas Cherbourg has the land, a deep-water port with unconstrained access and quays capable of taking heavy loads. It also plans to extend its quays to attract the offshore sector.