Taiwan’s fast-growing offshore wind industry is creating significant opportunities for vessel owners, but things need to change for construction and support operations to become more efficient and cost-effective
That was one of the key themes that emerged from Riviera Maritime Media’s webinar Offshore wind in Taiwan: challenges and opportunities, sponsored by Safeway and Berg Propulsion, part of Asia Maritime & Offshore Webinar Week, which is taking place 12 April-16 April 2021.
Maritime Strategies International senior offshore analyst Dr Ferenc Pasztor, MOL (Taiwan) president Jay Ko and Safeway chief executive Wijnand van Aalst agreed that seafarer training, equipment certification and support for spares and equipment all have the potential to make operating in Taiwan difficult compared to other markets. That is, they said, unless more support services become based in Taiwan. And as Mr Ko pointed out, there are also regulatory issues that need to be addressed.
“Much more of the training for seafarers who work in Taiwan’s offshore wind industry needs to take place in Taiwan,” Mr Ko told the webinar. “Equipment certification also needs to take place in Taiwan, and the supply chain for vessel equipment and components needs to be based in Taiwan.”
In 2020, Mr Ko’s company MOL established a joint venture with Taiwan’s Ta Tong Marine Group to build and operate the first service operation vessel (SOV) for the Taiwanese market. That vessel will be chartered for operations and maintenance on Ørsted’s Greater Changhua offshore windfarms.
“Even before Covid-19, if a vessel needed spare parts or an item of equipment and had to go off-hire, it could take much longer than is optimum to get spare parts to Taiwan,” Mr Ko explained. “It could also take a long time for service engineers to arrive. The longer a vessel is off-hire, the more costs rise and the greater the risk of delays to a project.”
Mr Ko, Mr van Aalst and Dr Pasztor all agreed that as the industry grows, Taiwan will have to have warehouses and distribution centres for ship equipment. Without that kind of support, vessels risk having to wait much longer for parts than they would in other, longer-established markets.
“In an ideal situation, if you needed spares and parts, you wouldn’t have to keep importing them,” said Mr Van Aalst, whose company Safeway is supplying motion-compensated access systems for a number of vessels in the Taiwanese offshore wind sector. “You really, really want to avoid going off-hire just because an otherwise insignificant part isn’t available locally.”
Mr Van Aalst also recommended that as the offshore wind industry in Taiwan grows, and as the number of vessels in the market also grows, it makes sense for windfarm owners to collaborate on support systems for vessels.
“It doesn’t really make sense for every developer or owner to have their own warehouse or distribution centre supporting their vessels,” he said. “They need to take a look at the North Sea oil and gas industry, where the oil majors collaborated to use the same supply bases in order to reduce costs and create efficiencies.
“We are also trying to ensure that we train local people to use and support our equipment,” said Mr Van Aalst. “We have installed a simulator in Taiwan to help do that.” Mr Ko agreed that training was important, and said there is still a dearth of DP training available in Taiwan.
As Mr Ko further explained, there are other challenges to vessel operations in Taiwan. One that directly affects MOL and its JV partner for the Ørsted SOV is that key international regulations have yet to be fully incorporated into Taiwanese maritime legislation.
This includes regulation of ’Industrial Personnel,’ that is, windfarm technicians, on vessels. The fact that key regulations have not been adopted in Taiwan created a challenge for MOL with the classification of the SOV, leading the joint venture to have to adopt passenger ship classification for the vessel. “This SOV is undoubtedly the only SOV in the world with passenger ship class,” he said, “and hopefully the last.”
Regulatory issues aside, the SOV will be of hybrid design and, Mr Ko confirmed, will be prepared for fossil fuel-free operation at a later date. It is being built at Vard’s shipyard in Vung Tau in Vietnam and is scheduled for delivery in H1 2022.
A poll of delegates participating in the webinar found that most felt vessel owners are doing a good job of transferring the experience they have gained in the offshore wind industry in Europe to Taiwanese companies and workers.
Two thirds of those polled also said that whatever challenges the industry faces, they expect that Taiwan will meet its target of 5.7 GW of offshore wind by 2025. A third felt that the target might not be achieved.