Den Helder Airport expands helicopter network for offshore wind sector

Friday, 18 August, 2017 - 15:45

Den Helder – Den Helder Airport is introducing a hub-and-spoke infrastructure enabling multiple helicopter take-off and landing sites at various locations along the Dutch coast. The implementation of these additional ‘helispots’ combined with a solid hub in Den Helder, stems from the cost efficient demand for helicopter flights to North Sea offshore wind projects. The plans, in which Den Helder Airport is playing a coordinating role in a consortium of participating companies, will lead to significant cost reductions of helicopter services.

“The market demand is for more cost effective helicopter services and greater expertise. In the energy sector there is a clear transition towards offshore wind and we, as the largest heliport in the Netherlands, want to offer broader and more cost-effective services for the offshore wind market in the North Sea,” said Den Helder Airport Director Conny van den Hoff.

Energy transition

Den Helder Airport has conducted an exploratory investigation into the changing offshore energy market in the North Sea and the future needs of the international market,” said Den Helder Airport business development manager Nick Waterdrinker, responsible for the investigation. Due to fluctuating oil and gas prices, as well as the policies of the Dutch government, it is expected that the offshore wind sector will continue to develop in the countries surrounding the North Sea. “Not only for the construction of wind farms at sea, but also for maintenance and supply in the future, helicopter flights will be needed,” continued Waterdrinker.

Short flight times

The investigation has revealed a ‘hub-spoke model’ that provides helicopter flights with shorter flight times. From several coastal locations, such as the province of Zeeland, Eemshaven and IJmuiden, daily flights will serve wind farms located along the Dutch coastline, as well as international areas of the North Sea. These additional flights will use existing infrastructure.

The small ‘helicopter spots’ will be operated in conjunction with Den Helder serving as a full-fledged hub. By maintaining maintenance, storage and other helicopter-related services efficiently from Den Helder, levels of employment and infrastructure will be maintained. Van den Hoff: “Due to the existing Instrument Landing System (ILS) and the numerous other airport facilities available, Den Helder Airport remains the full service home base for helicopter flights to the North Sea.”

Cost efficiency

The shorter flight times will allow helicopter flights to be provided more cost-effectively. “There is a clear signal for cost reduction coming from the market. With our model we can meet this market requirement and place the Netherlands in a strong international position. What’s more, according to the investigation, there will be a significant growth in employment expected. It is not only the Netherlands working hard at offshore wind farm construction – international competition for the construction and maintenance of wind turbines at sea is considerable. With this plan, we are anticipating this changing market situation. An additional advantage of widening the range of our take-off and landing points is that the environmental burden will also be spread,” said Van den Hoff.

Consortium

Den Helder Airport is in consultation with multiple parties in the offshore supply chain to establish a consortium to implement the hub-and-spoke model. With 40 years of experience in operating and supporting oil and gas companies in the North Sea, these companies will bring valuable expertise to the table. This consortium will be responsible for managing the efficient deployment of equipment and personnel in the Dutch parts of the North Sea.

The decision to implement the plan will be made in the fourth quarter of this year.

Source: Den Helder Airport

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