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Alex Blackwell of Clew Bay is always buzzing with ideas, and his latest notion is that the destination for a future Cruise-in-Company by some seagoing club or other (he's involved in several) should be the pioneering Ship Tunnel that the Norwegian Government is gong to build through the isthmus of the Stad Peninsula. This rugged headland of ill-repute is around 200 kilometres north of the ancient Hanseatic port of Bergen, and juts stubbornly out from the most westerly part of Norway's much-indented Atlantic coast. As it's on the same latitude as the Faroe Islands - where the sailing is plagued by the wayward winds and weather of the Arctic Convergence - the west point of the Stad reputedly has a hundred gale days every year, not to mention the added turmoil of opposing tides fighting to dominate each other.

Its foul reputation is such that in times past, frustrated Viking voyagers were reputed occasionally to haul their ships across a slight dip in the mile or so of the steep isthmus in order to make progress north or south. That is a very much more formidable challenge than the early mediaeval habit in Ireland – still part of folk memory in Baldoyle - of hauling Viking longships on tree-trunk rollers across the tombolo at Sutton in order to by-pass Howth from Dublin Bay without having to face the winter weather off The Baily.

The Stad Peninsula with the line of the Ship Tunnel. The island of Selje, directly linked to the 11th Century Irish missionary St Sunniva, is at the centre of map.   The Stad Peninsula with the line of the Ship Tunnel. The island of Selje, directly linked to the 11th Century Irish missionary St Sunniva, is at the centre of map.  

The Stad Ship Tunnel will be an engineering project of international interest. It is said that in prolonged periods of bad weather, the Vikings sometimes resorted to portaging their longships across the dip in the foreground on the isthmus ridgeThe Stad Ship Tunnel will be an engineering project of international interest. It is said that in prolonged periods of bad weather, the Vikings sometimes resorted to portaging their longships across the dip in the foreground on the isthmus ridge

Nowadays, even the able ships of the famous Norwegian Hurtigruten coast-hopping express can find the Stad means trouble, for the name simply means Stop, and it can do what it says on the
tin. Yet much of the pain could be taken out of it if only one could by-pass with a neat little slice through the peninsula's neck at its narrowest part, where the distance is just 1.7 kilometres, or near
enough a mile.

That location has been much debated, as a longer tunnel nearer the open sea would mean less diversion for vessels bound along the coast. But as a cruising destination, a tunnel further inland is all to the good, as it brings you well into the real Norway, and the fascinating neighbourhood of Stadlandet. It's not quite Norway's Dingle Peninsula, but as the local holy woman was St Sunniva, a Christian missionary from some royal family in Ireland, then it's only right and proper the Irish Cruising Club should someday head that way and make a ceremonial transit – under sail of course – through the new tunnel.

The remains of St Sunniva's Abbey on Selje is in the western approaches to the Ship Tunnel

To access the tunnel from the southwest, the final bit of local mini-fjord takes you past Selje Island and its 11th Century abbey, which was Sunniva's centre of operations, and is her burial place. There's many a cruise from Ireland which has had Santiago de Compostela in Galicia as one of its objectives, and in cruising the coasts of Cornwall and Brittany, you find yourself off harbourside villages which were name to venerate Irish missionaries. But in heading for Norway, you might expect to find yourself at Kirkwall in Orkney and its cathedral of St Magnus the Martyr.

He was the first and last Viking saint. He persuaded his comrades to give up their more anti-social habits, thereby contributing significantly to the ending of Vikingism, but he had his head cut off for his troubles. Be that as it may, the dominance of Magnus-veneration in the Orkneys might lead to the assumption that Norwegian Christian missionaries were making all the running. But by sailing a few hundred miles further northeast to Selje, you'll find confirmation that it was an Irish persuader who started it all.

And now, with preparations well advanced such that work on the tunnel is on target to start in 2022 with a completion in 2025, the focus is once again on the waters in and around Selje. The tunnel idea is not at all new – it must have occurred to the Viking boat-haulers as they cursed their longships across the dip in the ridge – but since 1874, the proposals have become increasingly realistic as tunnelling technology has advanced, and since 2011 it has been steadily moving up the agenda of the Norwegian National Transport Development Plan, until now it is just a matter of time.

The relatively little-known area inland of Stad will offer fresh yet convenient cruising possibilities once the Tunnel is openedThe relatively little-known area inland of Stad will offer fresh yet convenient cruising possibilities once the Tunnel is opened

It is also increasingly a matter of international interest to the point of fascination, for this is a major public expenditure flagship project. Thus everyone is intrigued to see how well the notoriously serious but also extremely resource-rich Norwegians manage to stay within budget, when other schemes like the "new" airport at Berlin, the high-speed railway in England, and the National Children's Hospital in Ireland appear to have gone out of and well beyond any controlled financial orbit.

Admittedly an every-which-way-technologically-complex project like an airport or a hospital is in a different category from the basically straightforward concept of a tunnel. But nevertheless, the removal of billions of tons of best Norwegian rock puts the Stad tunnel in a league of its own, for even the steep-sided Corinth Canal inside the Peloponnese in Greece maybe all of four miles long, yet it is but an open-topped ditch by comparison.

The Stad Tunnel will be a showpiece project, and wherein times past civil engineers seemed to prefer to be left in peace to get on with their more challenging projects, the construction of the Tunnel will be a must-see on the tourist circuit, as too in the future will be the sight of ships suddenly popping out of a hole in the Norwegian coast.

Built to accommodate ships up to the Hurtigruten Coastal Express size, it should be possible to sail through the Stad Ship Tunnel with a fair wind. Whether it will be permissible is another matter……Built to accommodate ships up to the Hurtigruten Coastal Express size, it should be possible to sail through the Stad Ship Tunnel with a fair wind. Whether it will be permissible is another matter……

Whether or not in 2027 or thereabouts the Irish Cruising Club will be allowed to have a fleet sail-through of the Tunnel as the culmination of their St Sunniva Cruise-in-Company is something else altogether, but there is a precedent of sorts.

Way back in September 1968, the ICC had one of their few truly all-Ireland Rallies, staged in Newry at the head of the Newry Ship Canal, and boats came from every coastline. One was Stan Roche's hefty big ketch Nancy Bet from Crosshaven, and once they'd passed through the sea lock from Carlingford Lough, Stan and his merry men realised the brisk and freshening southeaster was a direct fair wind along the canal to the Albert Basin. So they sent up the spinnaker, and other boats set some sail as well.

There were only two cars moving along the little canal-side road, but in observing this rather amazing spectacle, they managed to crash into each other. Yet - miraculously - the sail-setting boats avoided doing something similar as they arrived with a mighty flourish in Newry.

Can something similar be arranged for the Stad Tunnel, with its air draft of 161ft and width of 118ft? Unlike Newry, if you can just make it through with spinnaker set, there'll be oodles of room to take it in as you ping out into open water at the far end………

After you….CGI of ships taking it in turn to enter the Stad Ship TunnelAfter you….CGI of ships taking it in turn to enter the Stad Ship Tunnel

It can be a difficult coastline, and the Stad (at top) is the most difficult bit of all for smaller craftIt can be a difficult coastline, and the Stad (at top) is the most difficult bit of all for smaller craft

Published in Ports & Shipping
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One of the theories examined when Ever Given's huge container ship lost control of its steerage and blocked the Suez Canal was whether a cyberattack had disrupted its navigational systems. That had not happened, but the disruption to global trade which was caused has focused increasing attention on the protection of maritime infrastructure against cyberattacks, and the International Maritime Organisation has issued a warning about them.

Kerry-based offshore sailor, lifeboat volunteer, and sea angler Kieran Caulfield is Enterprise Director at the Irish cyber security company, Renaissance. According to him, the threat is very real.

He is my Podcast guest this week and says the developing Irish offshore energy sector, as well as shipping, port operations, fishing vessels, safety and navigation systems, could be targets.

Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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National maritime industry leaders and senior Government officials are to meet in Merseyside for a high-profile summit to discuss the future of the sector in the UK.

Industry body Mersey Maritime is holding its third annual Maritime Exchange conference on Friday, June 25, 2021. Taking place in the magnificent surroundings of a Grade-II-listed Victorian building in Birkenhead docklands, the conference will be a hybrid virtual and in-person event. The Mersey Maritime Exchange will serve as a platform for the maritime sector to come together to review progress on implementing the UK’s flagship national maritime strategy, Maritime 2050.

In the UK, the maritime sector is worth more than £46bn annually and supports more than one million jobs. Liverpool City Region is regarded as one of the most successful maritime clusters in Europe. The local sector contributes more than £4bn in GVA and supports tens of thousands of jobs.

Around 95% of goods coming into the UK arrive by sea and the sector kept this vital supply line of food, medicines and clothing moving during COVID-19. British maritime companies facilitate more than £500bn of global trade each year. It is an industry that is critical to the health of the UK economy.

Mersey Maritime hosted the first Maritime Exchange at Liverpool Town Hall in 2019 and, due to COVID-19 restrictions, took the event online in 2020. Last year’s conference included speeches from Maritime Minister Robert Courts and Sarah Kenny CEO of BMT and Chair of Maritime UK.

The Maritime Exchange was originally conceived in response to the Government’s Maritime 2050 report which set out the future of the sector over the next three decades. At the heart of the report was a commitment to technological transformation, decarbonisation and a more inclusive, highly-trained workforce.

This year’s conference will focus on ‘Maritime 2050: The journey so far?’ and is being delivered with the support of the Department for Transport and Maritime UK. The conference will again explore the Maritime 2050 strategy and its key themes, coming two-and-a-half years into the short-term recommendations and coinciding with the launch of Maritime UK’s detailed: ‘Maritime 2050: Where are we now?’ report. It will also celebrate the Day of the Seafarer 2021.

It is being held in the Grade II-listed 19th century hydraulic tower building, a copy of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, close to the Birkenhead waterfront. The building is set to be the centrepiece of the proposed £23m Maritime Knowledge Hub in Wirral Waters.

Chris Shirling-Rooke, Chief Executive of Mersey Maritime, said: “Despite the challenges of the last year, Mersey Maritime has been resolutely focused on supporting the industry in the Liverpool city region and beyond.

“Much of our work has been guided by the principles that sit within the Maritime 2050 report and we are proud to be able to deliver this event to showcase all that has been achieved so far across the sector, together with our UK wide ambitions for the future.

“Significantly, the event will take place at the site of the proposed new Maritime Knowledge Hub in the Birkenhead docks area which is a central part of major regeneration works for the region.

“This maritime centre of excellence is at the heart of our ambition for the future of the industry regionally and will be of national significance. It is fitting that we hold this important event in such a location and underlines the journey that the industry is on at this exciting time as we emerge from the pandemic crisis and respond to be the big challenges facing us.”

The conference will feature a range of key-note speeches and panel discussions, focused around the following themes:

  • People
  • Innovation
  • Environment
  • Competitiveness
  • Regional Growth

Maritime UK Chair, Sarah Kenny, added: “The UK is emerging from one of the greatest economic shocks in modern times, and as we look to rededicate ourselves to the long-term ambitions set out in the Maritime 2050 strategy, we have the opportunity to consider what the future of the maritime sector should look like.

“As we are approaching the half-way mark for the short-term recommendations in the strategy, we will be taking a moment to celebrate successes, but also to review progress, identify gaps in delivery, and think about what more needs to be done to ensure a sustainable maritime future for all.
“Maritime UK is pleased to be supporting Mersey Maritime and the Department for Transport in the organisation of this event, which will give us the opportunity to discuss key priorities from across a sector so critical to the UK economy.”

In addition to the Mersey Maritime Exchange conference, the Maritime Knowledge Hub site will also host a number of other activities across the day including a VVIP visit to launch the pre-development phase of the project with key partners Wirral Waters, Peel L&P, Wirral Council and Liverpool Combined Authority.

The days’ celebrations will conclude with a drinks reception to announce the finalists of the Mersey Maritime Industry Awards 2021 (MMIA21). The awards ceremony will take place in Liverpool on September 17, 2021 and will feature as the closing event of London International Shipping Week.

For more details on the Mersey Maritime Exchange – Maritime 2050: The journey so far is here

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A serious emerging problem which could affect essential food and other supplies is not being dealt with according to the biggest shipping companies in the world.

The International Chamber of Shipping has asked the United Nations to intervene after releasing a new estimate that as many as 400,000 seafarers are unable to leave ships worldwide because of Covid 19 travel restrictions in various countries.

Norway's Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, told the United Nations General Assembly that there would be "a humanitarian and world trade crisis." She said that seafarers are stranded on ships around the globe because crew changes have been made practically impossible by countries closing their borders and restricting travel of seafarers to and from ships.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has joined in the call for countries throughout the world to give seafarers "similar protections and rights to other essential workers."

Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, CEO Moller-Maersk, the container shipping giant, told the UN General Assembly. "Seafarers are vital to global supply chains, for food and all trade and especially medical supplies for #COVID19 response. I am worried that in respect of crew changes, little is going to change in most nations without action being taken at the very highest political level."

The United Nations has issued a reminder to all nations that they must observe the provisions in the code of its maritime agency, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to respect the rights of seafarers and their importance in maintaining world trade.

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Cork based shipping company, Irish Mainport Holdings, has announced its entry into the Offshore Wind Sector with its investment in a 50-metre Survey and Research Ship, the Mainport Geo, and at the same time buying a share of Wicklow based offshore services company, Alpha Marine.

In Ireland, Mainport operates three tugs in the Shannon estuary, provides a dedicated supply vessel at the Kinsale Natural Gas Field, as well as ship agency and stevedoring operations in Cork and Limerick. Internationally, Mainport operates seismic support ships in worldwide trading and has significant interests in fast crew boats and anchor handler ship in Malaysia and Australia.

Mainport also purchased all the marine assets of SO.PRO.MAR which was the leading Italian company in providing marine services to the Mediterranean scientific research market. A new company Mainport Med, based in Rome, was set up during 2020 with local Italian partners.

The new ship, 2015 built Mainport Geo is 50 m LOA, has DP 2 system, quieter, and economic diesel-electric engines, FIFI 1 and SPS notation for 35 passengers. She is located in Ivory Coast at present and will be delivered to Cork shortly.

Alpha Marine has a long history of service to the offshore wind sector, both in Ireland and overseas. Since 2004, the company has provided tug and workboat charter, crew transfer vessels (CTVS), hydrographic survey, subsea repair and maintenance and most recently, Environmental & Geophysical survey to offshore wind in Ireland and the UK.

Tim Greenwood, Commercial Director of Alpha Marine said: “Alpha Marine is looking forward to a bright future for offshore wind in Ireland and we are naturally delighted to partner with Mainport. This strategic investment will increase our operational capability and enable us to deliver a strong Irish supply chain proposition to windfarm developers and tier 1 & 2 contractors. Over the last year or two, we have seen an uptake in enquiries for geophysical survey so the added capability that the Mainport Geo brings us is very exciting indeed.”

Dave Ronayne, Chief Executive of Mainport said, “We are delighted with this new ship, which will be very suitable for the offshore renewable sector in Ireland. We know there is over €5 Billion investment planned over next few years on the east coast of Ireland by many major existing offshore wind operators such as Innogy, Parkwind, ESB, Statkraft, Fred Olsen and SSE and all these new wind farms will require surveying services. This ship is also very suitable for the Italian scientific research markets.

We are very happy to join with Alpha Marine who is ideally located on the east coast of Ireland and who have a great track record on providing services to the offshore wind industry over the last decade. Our combined resources will allow us to provide a full marine and technical solution to all marine requirements.”

Published in Cork Harbour
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European merchant ships generate almost four per cent of total EU carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a new EU report states.

The European Commission’s report - the first of its kind on CO2 emissions from maritime transport - estimates that merchant ships added over 138 million tonnes to EU carbon emissions in 2018.

This amounts to some 3.7 per cent of the EU’s CO2 emissions – comparable to the emissions generated by the country of Belgium.

However, the “vast majority” of ships working in and out of European waters have cut their speed to save on energy and fuel and reduce emissions, the report says.

The data was drawn from reports filed for that year by 11,600 ships over 5,000 gross tonnes in size, representing some 38 per cent of the world merchant fleet.

The report shows that around two third of reported CO2 emissions related to voyages to or from a port outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

Voyages inside the EEA represented only 32% of total CO2 emissions, and emissions from ships in EEA ports stood for 6% of total emissions, it says.

“When comparing CO2 emissions across different ship types, container ships represented the largest share of total emissions, with over 30%,”it says.

Some two-thirds of the ships monitored are non-EU flagged, and over half are owned by entities based in the EU, it states.

The report says that most of the monitored fleet “already meets” the global energy efficiency standards applied from 2020 to 2025.

It notes that the “vast majority of ships” have reduced their speed compared to 2008 by between 15 and 20%.

Cruising at lower speeds saves energy and fuel, and can significantly reduce CO2 emissions, it notes.

It says that the data and report will be published each year, to allow a better understanding of the characteristics, CO2 emissions and energy efficiency of the monitored fleet.

The EU has drawn up plans to cut emissions from shipping, which are projected to grow rapidly if unchecked in the next three decades.

An EU regulation was passed in 2018 on monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from maritime transport.

It requires shipping companies to monitor their CO2 emissions, fuel consumption and other relevant information during navigation to or from ports in the EEA, when they transport cargo or passengers for commercial reasons.

The 11,600 ships monitored cover a large variety of ships from roll-on/roll-off passenger ships to bulk carriers, tankers and container ships, and are relatively young at an average of 11 years.

Ferry company Stena Line has recently reported that it is ten years ahead of the international shipping targets for reducing emissions.

It says it is currently involved in several projects with alternative fuels and propulsion, including the world’s first methanol powered vessel.

Stena Line's first electric Ferry, Eletkra, is planned for 2030Stena Line's first electric Ferry, Eletkra, is planned for 2030

It also plans to launch a fully battery powered vessel before 2030, according to Stena Line head of sustainability Erik Lewenhaupt.

Published in Ports & Shipping
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A cargo ship en route to Dublin Port was caught in this week's storms and lost at least 12 containers overboard.

The Maritime Bulletin reports that the ship 'Elbcarrier' lost the containers in the Celtic Sea on the afternoon of Sunday, December 8, while en route from Rotterdam to Dublin and being caught in rough seas.

The Bulletin's reporter is Erofey Schkvarkin, a Merchant Marine Captain, who also writes that 12 drifting containers were spotted at 2330 UTC in vicinity 51 40N 005 50W.

The ship reached Dublin in the afternoon Dec 9. More on this in the Maritime Bulletin here

Containers Blown Over

Separately, a reader has sent Afloat photo of containers blown over in Dublin Port in high winds this week.

Containers CapsizedShipping containers capsized in Dublin Port this week

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Lloyd’s Register (LR) announced today – during Singapore Maritime Week – a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ST Engineering Electronics Ltd. (STEE), a leading Information Communications Technologies (ICT) provider and co-creater of Smart City Solutions, and Mitsui & Co., Ltd (Mitsui), the second largest trading house in Japan.

The partners will collaborate on the ‘Development of Ocean-going Autonomous Navigation System on a Marine Asset’, the MoU forms the foundation of the MPA-funded ‘World’s Largest Ocean-Going Autonomous Vessel Programme’, which was also announced today.

“LR’s involvement in this project builds on the capability and experience already gained from our partnership in other industry-leading and world first autonomous projects,” said Andy McKeran, LR Commercial Director Marine & Offshore. “However, this project, a world first for the deployment of autonomous navigational technology to an ocean-going vessel for commercial operations, pushes the boundaries of autonomous technology and moves the industry towards deployment of autonomous navigation systems onboard vessels for enhanced performance and critically, safety.”

LR announces collaboration to develop industry first ocean going autonomous navigation system 1LR announces collaboration to develop industry first ocean-going autonomous navigation system

“Increasing interest in maritime autonomy and remote access/control technologies is a specific example of larger technological changes we are currently seeing in the maritime industry. Essential to the successful and safe adoption of these technologies is that robust use cases are established, for example to improve navigational safety, supply chain efficiency or operational costs of marine assets. Autonomous systems will also provide opportunities for skilled seafarers to focus on what they do best, and the safe and sustainable integration of autonomous systems relies on the appropriate engagement with seafaring professionals.”

He continued, “Working with STEE, who have already developed and proven this capability and are now looking to work to scale in the commercial marine market, is what sets this project apart; STEE provide world-class technical expertise, technology and advanced learnings on autonomous systems in the marine environment. We will support with expertise on assurance, certification and regulation for the application of autonomy in the maritime environment as well as approval of systems where appropriate.”

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The Russian vessel Seagrand hit a bridge in the South Korean city of Busan yesterday as depicted in this tweeted video below.

There were no casualties according to reports but there was 'severe' damage to the bridge.

Police detained Russian sailors onboard.

Published in Ports & Shipping
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ParcelHero’s David Jinks will tell a major world maritime conference in London. Shipping lines will be forced to either integrate with Amazon and Alibaba or be submerged by the digital revolution.

‘A change in global supply chains even greater than the introduction of containers in the 1950s is underway, and shipping lines that don’t adapt to the new e-commerce revolution will go under in the same way as the many long-established companies that failed to adapt to containerization.’

That’s the message that David Jinks MILT, Head of Consumer Research at the international delivery experts ParcelHero, and former Editor of Logistics & Transport Focus and Lloyds Shipping Index, will tell delegates at this month's prestigious Digital Ship CIO Conference, at the Waldorf Hotel on Thursday 28th February.

Says David: ‘The prime need for Amazon to entirely integrate its supply chain means it has already revolutionized its land and air operations – it now delivers 80% of its own parcels in the UK and flies over 40 Boeing 767 Amazon Air jet freighters. It now has the crucial supply chain from China to the West firmly in its sights. At the same time the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, whose volumes make Amazon look like a minnow, is fast integrating its own deliveries to the US and Europe.’

Warns David: ‘As freight forwarders and shipping agents become obsolete under the new digitized retail supply chains, shippers must either integrate with Fulfilment by Amazon and Alibaba’s One Touch booking programme, or be overwhelmed by the tsunami that is sweeping over the shipping industry.’

David will reveal that shipping lines must either adapt to survive - as Maersk is attempting by integrating with Alibaba and introducing its revolutionary Captain Peter App to track container loads - or face the prospect of Amazon launching its own rival fleet; it already has its own freight forwarding service.

Reveals David: ‘When the first container ship sailed in 1956 a longshore union boss said: ”‘I’d like to sink that son of a bitch”. He recognised the sea change that would follow. We can now see that this digital revolution will result in Internet of Things (IoT) connected machines placing orders automatically with Chinese manufacturers, and integrating with autonomous ships like the soon-to-be-launched Yara Birkeland. It’s sad but true that those shipping lines, freight forwarders and agents who still favour personal contact and the phone will be left all at sea as the pace of integration increases.’

Joining David at the conference will be speakers from IBM, Inmarsat, Hill Dickinson LLP and other leading maritime industry organisations.

For more information on the leading industry figures speaking at the Digital Ship CIO Conference and details of how to attend see here

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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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