United States

United States

Maersk gets foothold in offshore wind

UNITED STATES: The world's largest operator of supply ships is entering the nascent offshore wind industry through a partnership between its US division and a small wind developer.

Maersk Line Ltd (MLL), the American division of Denmark's Maersk, has agreed to collaborate with Apex Wind Energy by supplying ocean-going vessels for Apex's offshore utility-scale wind projects.

Apex is in the relatively early stages of several offshore US developments and is not otherwise involved in offshore wind.

MLL vice-president Greg Moore said MLL, which provides US-flagged vessels, ship management and technical services, will bring its "maritime muscle" to the table. "The relationship provides Apex with an experienced maritime partner who can develop and deliver the necessary maritime solutions - vessel assets," he added. "We are essentially the one-stop shop for Apex's maritime needs."

MLL will provide or broker ocean-going vessels for shipping components, laying cable or perhaps for turbine installation and O&M.

"(But) we do not intend to get into wind-farm development and/or financing," said Moore, putting to rest some media speculation. "We will not invest in the farms, only in the vessels."

Call for offshore

Apex will submit a proposal in Virginia, which is home to both companies and is where the Department of the Interior is set to issue its second-ever call for interest in developing offshore US projects. Apex president Tim Ryan, who also noted that MLL has strengths as a major operator of US ports and that it owns and operates offshore oil and gas rigs.

MLL's interest in US offshore wind is not limited to Apex, said Kevin Speers, MLL's senior marketing director. "Siemens, Gamesa, Apex... they might all hire Maersk to support them," he said. Construction of US offshore wind projects is not expected before 2013.

MLL does not currently own or operate vessels suitable for wind-plant installation, cautioned analyst Jesse Broehl of US consultancy Make Consulting. "That's the sweet spot in the vessel supply chain," he said. "There are enough ships available to transport wind components but there are no specialised jack-up vessels currently in the US available for offshore wind-plant construction." Although MLL could use its two new US-flagged heavy-lift vessels, Maersk Illinois and Maersk Texas, in wind-related activities, he added.

Ships travelling between US ports must be US flagged, according to legislation implemented under the Jones Act - the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. MLL is not Jones Act-certified because it has a foreign parent, so its ships are barred from transporting wind components along the US coasts. The company can, however, broker Jones Act-certified ships, said Speers.

Even so, it is not yet clear whether or under what circumstances foreign-owned ships could be barred from helping with wind plant installation and maintenance in US waters. That is because of the complexities of the Jones Act and newness of America's offshore wind industry. In the Gulf of Mexico's oil and gas industry, non-Jones Act vessels can participate under some circumstances.

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