OPINION: Making the most of the offshore wind boom

With the pace of offshore deployment increasing, the supply chain needs to keep pace. Here, vessel supplier Seajack's crewing manager, Ian Robertson, sets out the three major challenges facing the sector.

With the offshore wind industry set to grow exponentially, Seajacks has highlighted some supply chain challenges
With the offshore wind industry set to grow exponentially, Seajacks has highlighted some supply chain challenges

Projects are increasingly being commissioned across the world as governments, the public, and businesses demand clean energy, and the technology to make this happen becomes more affordable.

While this is fantastic news for developers and the supply chain, it also presents challenges the industry needs to address to ensure wind farms are built on time and to specification.

Skills

One challenge is making sure people have the right skills to work on these projects. In the installation jack-up vessels industry, high-skilled crews are vital.

The technical nature of operating one of these vessels, from turbine installation through to navigation, means crews need to have the technical know-how to operate them.  

Increasing demand for vessels will mean that more people with the skills to operate them will be required. If not, the industry may be left with a skills shortage that could become difficult to overcome.

At Seajacks, to ensure we have access to a wealth of highly skilled staff, every crew member on our vessels is trained in-house and specifically to work on our fleet.

It is not just in-house that we want to develop the right skills for installation vessel crew members. We want to help the whole industry access highly-trained talent to help the sector continue to thrive.

To do this, we have donated equipment to marine colleges, including Lowestoft College and the Ship Safe Training Group. Through this initiative, students get first-hand experience of training and working with different parts of installation vessels.

Technology 

Another challenge is ensuring vessels are able to handle new technologies.

Turbine designs are constantly innovating, becoming larger and more advanced to generate as much power as possible. As such, vessels need to be available that can install this technology.

This can prove difficult for providers as it can be hard to know what the next innovation will be. Much of this information is highly confidential and kept under wraps by manufacturers.

Vessel operators need to be ahead of the game so they can make the right predictions when adding to their fleets in order to meet demands when the advances are met.

Through investment in research and development, as well as liaising and listening to industry players, vessel providers can ensure they are ready for what lies ahead.

Planning

Finally, the offshore wind industry needs to avoid installation bottlenecks so that new wind projects are completed as efficiently as possible. This mainly comes down to developers.

Once a firm has won a contract to develop a wind farm, these businesses need to begin planning and booking suppliers as soon as possible or risk missing out on vital equipment.

For example, advanced installation vessels that can handle new technologies are in short supply and when they’re booked for other jobs, could be unavailable for long periods of time.

If developers know what type of vessel they need, they should book it at the nearest opportunity to ensure it’s there when they need it, or risk losing out.

It’s a great time to be in the offshore wind industry and one which looks set to continue.

Through developing the future workforce, staying ahead of technological advancements and planning in advance, all of us have the opportunity to make offshore wind even better and the clean, affordable solution the world needs. 

Ian Robertson is the crewing manager at Seajacks

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