As global offshore windfarm development continues apace, IMCA’s Marine Renewable Energy Committee delivers key safety guidance, writes IMCA technical advisor Andy Goldsmith
This year IMCA celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Marine Renewable Energy Committee (MREC), reflecting on the achievements of both the association and its members, while looking forward to what is still to come as the global reach of the offshore wind industry continues apace.
MREC exists to co-ordinate all Marine Division-related work items associated with the renewable energy sector worldwide – safety being the golden thread running throughout its work.
The committee, formed of vessel operators, contractors at all levels in the supply chain, windfarm developers, regulators: the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE), G+ (the Offshore Wind Health and Safety Association), and relevant trade associations, promoting pertinent experience and best practice from the offshore energy sector.
MREC supports members operating in the offshore wind industry, working closely with them and key peer organisations worldwide to ensure relevant information is shared, while considering the particular challenges and opportunities they face and developing guidance to match.
As an active member of the Industry Collaboration Committee, IMCA’s expertise for all marine matters is recognised by the Committee members, G+, the Global Wind Organisation, Safety On, RenewableUK, Wind Europe and the American Clean Power Association.
“90% of turbine and cable installations in the offshore wind industry are carried out by IMCA members”
Members achievements are legion – indeed 90% of turbine and cable installations in the offshore wind industry are understood to be carried out by IMCA member companies.
Meanwhile, the committee has delivered key guidance to the industry in the form of ‘Guidance on the transfer of personnel to and from offshore vessels and structures’ (M 202); ‘Basic safety training requirements for vessel personnel employed in the offshore renewable energy sector’ (C 018); ‘Research on personal locator beacons’ (M 234); ‘Work to Work (WTW) guidelines’ (M 254); ‘Boat landing standardisation’ (M 232); and ‘an information note: ‘Jones Act Update and the developing offshore wind market in the United States’ tying in with increased activity in US waters.
Initially MREC was set up as a duo of workgroups to consider safety and attitudes to implementing safety guidance under the chairmanship of Alan MacLeay of Subsea 7 (still the man in the hot seat) to focus on the energy transition into renewable energy. It reported to the Marine Division Management Committee and was part of the Europe and Africa Region.
Before long, the two workgroups combined, becoming a full-blown committee using their expertise to help develop the safety ethos of the industry and use well-established guidelines from the oil and gas industry, drawing on IMCA’s strong library of guidance documents that are adapted and adopted by the new industry.
As Trevor Johnson, the recently retired HM Principal Inspector of Health, Safety, Wind and Marine Energy Team at HSE explained: “Every time we went on board a vessel in the early days they would explain ‘We’re following IMCA guidance’.”
HSE has been responsible for two key wake-up calls for the industry, both pointing out the importance of collaboration. Its leadership meeting held at Bootle in 2015, which resulted in the formation of the Industry Collaboration Committee; and, in 2020, Mr Johnson’s letter expressing concerns over recent incidents which stirred up the industry to press ever-harder on the ‘collaboration pedal’. IMCA’s specially convened webinar, held in November of that year, met with his approval: “I knew I would get a reaction from IMCA,” he said.