Competition is good for business

Tuesday, 24 February, 2015 - 12:45
Zeeland Seaports has already been involved in the logistics for six offshore wind farms. (Photo: Zeeland Seaports)
Zeeland Seaports has already been involved in the logistics for six offshore wind farms. (Photo: Zeeland Seaports)

Dutch companies already play a leading role in the construction of offshore wind farms. This is no surprise, as they have a long tradition in the oil and gas business. Port operators are now moving into position. They have European projects in their sights, as well as new wind farms right on their doorsteps.

The Dutch offshore sector has been suffering a pretty long drought now. After the two wind farms Egmond aan Zee and Princess Amalia were built in 2006 and 2008, ­there came literally nothing at all. No government up to 2014 was able to give the industry political support and reform the rather unlucrative support mechanism with its fixed budgets. Although nine wind farms were granted planning approval in 2009, only two obtained approval for subsidies. In 2011, the former right wing Dutch government stopped all support for offshore.

Since the end of 2014, there has been a significant turnaround, however, as the new cabinet has passed the designation of three new zones and cleared the way for an initial 4,450 MW. The old approvals have been retracted by the politicians. “Instead, the first three new tenders of 700 MW each will be put out from 2015 onwards, and the first wind farms should enter operation in 2019. The winners of the tenders will get a complete package, including all approvals, the grid connection and the support,” explains Michiel Müller, Unit Manager for Wind at Ecofys.

Siren call from the seas

This good news is calling the ports into the game. Metropole Amsterdam wants to position itself right at the front. Of the new project areas, a main share lies in their coastal region right for the taking, as it were, and the third round English projects such as Dogger Bank are not far away at a distance of almost 130 km. “The new Dutch projects are very close and Amsterdam is the perfect port for construction and later operation,” says Anthony van der Hoest. He is Cluster Manager for Logistics at the municipal Port of Amsterdam.

Big ships are a firm feature at the port of Amsterdam. Soon, construction ships will be docking here too. (Photo: aim ports)

 

The port company has identified three port areas suitable for offshore wind power. These include long quays, assembly areas, cranes, dry docks and an impressive 1.5 million m2 of storage space. “As opposed to many other ports we have enough space for quick and cost-effective logistics. This is a decisive advantage, as transportation and storage make up over 20 % of the total costs,” says van der Hoest.

Amsterdam and the seaport of IJmuiden have entered into a partnership for the implementation of projects. IJmuiden lies directly on the North Sea and is connected to Amsterdam via a large canal. Mainly new hubs for large components are also to be built at three sites here. “The canal lock is to be enlarged again by 2019 and we are currently checking whether there will be restrictions for jacking up at the quays for construction ships,” says van der Hoest. Here the level of support by specialised companies is also impressive. Under the roof of the two ports a network of 56 companies has been set up, which offers a lot of expertise for offshore business services.

Contest for new business sites

Zeeland Seaports also wishes to score points in the battle for new business sites and contracts through its expertise. It consists of the ports of Vlissingen and Terneuzen. They lie south of Amsterdam near the Belgian border. “We have already been involved in the logistics for four English and two German offshore wind farms, and stored and shipped all the components for the Greater ­Gabbard project. That was 150 monopiles and transition pieces,” says Robbert de Reus from Verbrugge Zeeland ­Terminals, port operator in Vlissingen.

Availability of space is no problem in Eemshaven. The port authority there is expanding rapidly. (Photo: Torsten Thomas)

 

This shows that they have a lot of logistics experience and they also have a strong partner there in the shape of Sarens. The crane company can hook up loads of up to 1,750 t right on the quay. “Heavy components are thus no problem,” says de Reus. Additionally, ­Verbrugge has 200 ha of storage space on offer and 3,000 m of quay space which can handle heavy loads. However, since the involvement in the London Array, not much has been happening in terms of ­offshore because the English projects have been faltering.

Currently, the logistics for the 129 MW offshore wind farm Luchterduinen, which is being constructed 23 km from the coast, is being handled via the Verbrugge terminals. It is the first new project off the Dutch coast since 2008 and is being built according to the old conditions. The general contractor for construction is the offshore giant Van Oord, which is warming up for a takeover bid on its competitor Ballast Nedam.

Van Oord is also the general contractor for the ­Gemini project, which has already had support approval for a maximum of € 4.5 billion since 2010. The former Bard Group had to sell the rights to the wind farm with 150 turbines and 600 MW of rated capacity to Typhoon ­Capital in 2011, however. Meanwhile, the wind farm, which is to begin construction this year, is in the ­majority ownership of the Canadian company Northland Power.

Scoring points with ­experience

Because this project lies right on the German border, the port of Eemshaven is in the happy position of being charged with managing the logistics for Europe’s second-largest wind farm. Their port authority has been setting its hopes on offshore wind power for quite some time now, as the port in Dollart Bay also lies favourably. Seven German wind farms have already had component logistics carried out from here and Gemini is pretty much on the doorstep, as it were. There is also available capacity here. Thanks to a € 25 million expansion of the Beatrix port, these areas, complete with new quays and heavy load areas, will be ready by the end of the year.

Additionally, Groningen Seaports already has plans on the table to expand the location to become a service and maintenance base. This includes berths for crew tenders and maintenance ships, as well as a helicopter landing area, which should be available in 2016. The Dutch thus seem to be well equipped, and not only for their own projects.

Torsten Thomas

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