Offshore Mega Wind Farms In Asia Risk Delays Owing To Ship Shortage

Asian nations are currently counting on some offshore wind farms to satisfy clean energy goals. They are witnessing a rising shortage of vessels for installing massive turbines in the sea.

As nations embark on a sudden and rapid build-out of wind power over the next decade, builders cannot churn out much-needed support vessels quickly enough to cope, shipping specialists, state. The situation will worsen as blades get longer and need bigger containers to tackle them.

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Specialized vessels will be in demand for assignments across South Korea and Taiwan, explained Sean Lee, shipyard Marco Polo Marine’s CEO. A massive wave of these projects will come up in 2028 in Japan.

The complex task of installing a wind turbine in the seabed requires multiple types of vessels specially designed to carry out the job. Turbine installers boast massive cranes that can hoist objects as heavy as the most excellent sequoia tree. Commissioning service operation vessels, better known as CSOVs, offer adjustable gangways that permit technicians to get to the turbine blades.

Except for China, there are only ten turbine-installing vessels currently, and a few dozen CSOVs are operating worldwide, per shipbroker Clarksons. By 2030, the demand for turbine installers will outpace supply by approximately 15 vessels, while the gap for CSOVs will widen to over 145 CSOVs from the current number of 30, it estimates.

According to Global Wind Energy Council, China boasts 84 vessels that can install wind turbines. But most of those can handle only small turbines, with several being converted from oil and gas vessels. These are unlikely to meet specifications in Europe or elsewhere in Asia.

The worldwide floating offshore wind sector will likely increase to 27.6 gigawatts by 2035 from 0.1 gigawatts installed, per BloombergNEF. While that reflects exceptional growth, the industry must resolve supply chain bottlenecks and other issues, BNEF noted.

Most of the existing vessels have been deployed to Europe, mentioned Marco Polo’s Lee. To cover up the gaps in Asia, tugs and support vessels serving oil rigs in Southeast Asia have reportedly been diverted to the wind farms.

But using oil and gas vessels can never be a sustainable long-term resolution. The current fleet of installation vessels might become obsolete soon as the turbine sizes grow nearly as long as the Eiffel Tower.

The world’s most significant floating wind project in Norway uses turbines with a rotor diameter of over 160 meters. As technology advances, next-gen wind farms may be able to see the lengths increase by 2030 to 275 meters, per the GWEC.

More giant turbines indicate the needed lifting heights and crane capabilities of vessels planting the blades must go up, said Westwood’s Ayoub.

Shipping firms have been racing to fill this gap. Marco Polo is reportedly building a CSOV by 2024 that will be chartered in Taiwan by Vestas Wind Systems A/S. Cadeler A/S, on the other hand, has placed its order to Cosco Heavy Industries for four vessels for turbine installation from 2024 to 2026, while Maersk Supply Service ordered one from Sembcorp Marine Ltd. To be delivered to the US in 2025.

References: Economic Times, Energy Voice

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