Working in Offshore Wind

Working in the offshore wind farm industry for the last nine years has been quite an interesting experience,to be part of a young industry where at the beginning you made it up as you went along,up until now where every part of the industry is controlled by some rule or procedure and sometimes you feel like are banging your head against the wall to get even the simplest of things done. I know good working practices and health and safety have been proven to save lives in the workplace, but sometimes the ability to think for yourself is being taken away from people, which I believe can cause greater problems sometimes.

Anyway i digress,as i have said earlier i have worked in the offshore wind farm industry for nine years as a captain of a crew transfer vessel, which basically meant at the beginning, taking engineers down the river Mersey each day and putting them on a wind turbine to carry out their work. It was fantastic to start of with ,as my friend Bob and myself had come from the fishing industry and had never experienced anything like this. We could not believe that when it was bad weather and we could not go out we would still get paid for the day,  the only thing we knew from fishing was no fish no money, also we did not have to live on the boat, the company paid for a flat, we really thought we were in heaven.

The correct lifting arm

Liverpool was a very enjoyable first site to work and Bob and myself had built up a good working relationship with the client and engineers.This did help when we had little incidents like a brand new £12000,300kg gearbox shaft fall out of the sky from 15 metres, bounce of the front of the boat after wiping out the guard rail and punching a hole in the foredeck, and then falling into the sea all because an engineer could not be bothered to put on the correct lifting arm for craning. This is when life gets a real pain,luckily no one was hurt but all you can think of is the inevitable paperwork chase and incident reports and the health and safety investigations.

Second time lucky

After leaving liverpool i moved onto Esbjerg in Denmark to work on horns rev 2 wind farm which was in its construction phase. This was probably the best wind farm site that i  have ever worked on, the company i worked for only had three skippers with the right qualifications required by Danish maritime law at the beginning of the project and they needed about twenty. Some of the skippers that were hired in desperation were not of the best quality, but a good bit of crisis management seems to work wonders for your pay packet.

horns rev 2
the little yellow brake

We worked very hard long days on that site and some of the jobs that we were required to do were a bit strange,like using our vessel as a brake for the small jack up ship that was installing the turbines, making sure in the process that you did not squash your own ship in the process.This was also the first time that i had worked with the hotel ship which had a reputation of being a ship bender because of the boat landings, but i managed to come away unscathed from there,here are a few more photographs that i took from the horns rev construction site.

horns reef turbine assembley
lifting on the blades
wind solution
ready to board passengers

After horns rev I came back to the UK work out of Harwich on the greater gabbard wind farm, it was probably not as good as Denmark but still a good site to work on.

time for work
first transition piece being fitted on the gabbard

The company who were contracted to build the wind farm did not have a clue where to start in wind farm construction and i think this is where some of the more stranger ideas started to evolve.I seem to remember the client and the construction firm having some rare battles and relations between the two major companies were pretty poor if non existent.

I am now working out in Germany who seem to be racing ahead with renewable energy projects, everything seems to have got bigger from the crew transfer vessels to the jack up installation vessel, even the output of the turbines has increased to 8 megawatts now and they are talking about 15 megawatt turbines being developed for the future. On the crew transfer vessel side it has become very competitive, with a slowdown in construction over the last few years and the influx of vessels from the oil and gas industry. These larger vessels are capable of working more inclement weather and can stay on station using dynamic vessel positioning and motion compensated gangways. Mind you it can still go wrong as the Vos Stone found out after colliding with a wind turbine on her first day of charter, causing the damage that you can see in the photograph. Needless to say a very expensive failure not only to the vessel but also the wind turbine foundation. Again you can only imagine the amount of accident enquiries, paperwork and damage limitation interviews an unfortunate accident like this can generate.

lovely evening to be at sea
vessel normally used in the oil industry acting as hotel ship
Aker Wayfarer with Ampleman Gangway deployed
Aker Wayfarer with Ampleman gangway deployed
Vos Stone damage after contact with wind turbine
Vos Stone damage after contact with a wind turbine

 The cash cow for the crew transfer vessel companies has become very uncertain with some firms making large redundancies and reducing their fleet size. New larger vessels with more passenger and cargo carrying capacities are now on demand from clients,with the ability to work more hostile weather conditions.As i have said at the beginning i have been doing this job for the last nine years and have worked at sea for most of my life, hopefully this will see me through until i retire or unless i get totally pissed of with some of the crazy rules people dream up, but as a keen amateur photographer working at sea has given me the opportunity to take photographs in some beautiful but hostile conditions

crew practising their recovery drill
Think my favourite sunset shot i have aver taken
and the good bit some of the best sunsets you ever will see
Balder w
crew change time

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