Two high-tech cutting ceremonies have taken place marking construction is underway to build North Star Renewables’ inaugural hybrid-powered vessel fleet specifically designed to support the UK’s growing offshore wind market.
Comprising three of its service operation vessels (SOVs) and three associated daughter crafts, all six North Star assets are bound for the first two phases of the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, located off the East coast of Yorkshire (UK). More than 130 new recruits will be taken on locally by the UK’s largest SOV provider to support the first ship being delivered from summer 2023.
A traditional moment in the shipbuilding process, the SOV steel cutting ceremony was carried out by North Star’s shipbuilding partner VARD in Vietnam and was also attended by the North Star Build supervision, live streamed to the firm and Dogger Bank VIP representatives. It is one of two sister 5,000 tonnes vessels being built to accommodate up to 40 technicians working on the wind farm’s offshore wind turbines at its first two phases, Dogger Bank A and Dogger Bank B. A third 6,000 tonnes SOV, which features a helideck and space for up to 50 personnel, will also be delivered to the development’s partners SSE Renewables (40%), Equinor (40%) and Eni (20%). The trio of vessels are chartered for 10-year terms with additional one-year options.
Simultaneously this week, work gets underway on building what will be the world’s first hybrid powered daughter craft for the offshore wind market, as the aluminium-cutting commenced at Alicat’s shipyard in Great Yarmouth (UK). Designed by Southampton-based naval architects Chartwell Marine in collaboration with North Star, the high-performance craft will be used to safely transfer technicians from the SOVs to work on the wind turbines benefitting from Chartwell’s unique AFS bow fender and other stability technology. The craft will also be on emergency rescue support standby.
In the last 10 years, North Star has taken delivery of 17 new ships built on schedule and within budget, demonstrating the team’s ability to locally manage the new-build process in the UK and overseas.
Construction of its renewables fleet is being project managed entirely in-house. North Star’s Lowestoft based team, (the Boston Putford division) will oversee the daughter craft build with Alicat. North Star has also taken on build superintendent Fernando Barerras in Vietnam, who has a proven track record of SOV delivery, alongside further appointments related to the steel, electrical and paint and coatings inspection to support the SOV construction. They will report directly into the firm’s Aberdeen and Newcastle offices.
North Star CEO Matthew Gordon said: “It’s been exhilarating to see construction beginning on our first renewables fleet at both locations, demonstrating we are fully on track for delivering the six vessels on schedule despite the global pandemic. Our SOVs bring a superior level of comfort to offshore wind technicians working in the harsh North Sea environment. We are also introducing a raft of exciting new systems and software to the market in conjunction with our technology partners across the fleet which truly push the boundaries of performance to help increase workability, safety, on-board comfort, lowered fuel consumption and hits the mark with the sector’s sustainability goals.
“This is just the start of our journey in renewables. Not only do we have the capital in place we also have the experience and capabilities within our organisation to deliver and operate numerous offshore wind vessel fleets simultaneously. It’s our overarching objective we have planned to secure at least 15 renewable fleet contracts within the next five years; and our business is ready to do so.”
North Star’s SOV design has been developed to support good manoeuvrability for planned operations and maintenance work. With features such as industry proven gangways and cranes, Voith Schneider propulsion and medium speed hybrid propulsion package to improve operational efficiency and reduce environmental footprint. The design has also ensured technician and client comfort to meet V1 and C1 industry standard classifications.
Rune Rønvik, prepare for operations manager for Dogger Bank, said: We are building Dogger Bank with focus on innovation and sustainability, and the vessels supplied by North Star and Alicat are great examples of both. First steel cut is a great milestone on the path to have the first SOV delivered at the Port of Tyne in 2023, from where we will run the operations for the world’s biggest offshore wind farm.”
General manager for the offshore and specialised vessels business area in VARD, Fredrik Mordal Hessen said: “The steel cutting ceremony for the first of the three vessels under construction at VARD for North Star is an important milestone. Together, we have developed future-oriented vessels with a high focus on workability, comfort, safety and sustainability. Now we have started the exciting shipbuilding phase, and we are looking forward to continuing the excellent teamwork to build the innovative vessels for the Dogger Bank Wind Farm.”
Alicat director Simon Coote said: “It’s always a very exciting moment to see the first cut of the aluminium achieved on a newbuild project, but to be involved in a first for the offshore wind industry has really upped the ante. We are very proud to be part of this journey with North Star and its design partner Chartwell Marine, helping to put their innovative daughter craft fleet design on the map with the UK renewables sector and internationally. There is a wealth of industry talent on Dogger Bank’s doorstep and it’s great to be recognised for having the necessary skills and facilities to deliver a project of this size.”
In September, North Star finalised a £96 million funding package to build its first renewables vessel fleet with a secured loan from multi-national financial services organisation Allianz Global Investors. This supplemented North Star’s own balance sheet and equity commitments from its 100% shareholder, Basalt Infrastructure Partners.
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