Aberdeen-based North Star Renewables has been awarded contracts worth an estimated £270M (US$375M) to deliver three service operation vessels (SOVs) to be used on what will be the world’s largest offshore windfarm, the 3.6-GW Dogger Bank project in the North Sea
North Star’s contract award follows a highly competitive tender process. The Scottish firm beat off strong international competition to secure the deal to design and deliver the three-vessel service operation fleet for Dogger Bank, which is currently being built in the North Sea by joint venture partners SSE Renewables, Equinor and Eni.
The 3.6-GW Dogger Bank will be the largest offshore windfarm in the world when complete in 2026 and is being built in three equal phases of 1.2 GW: Dogger Bank A, B and C. North Star will deliver one SOV to be used for scheduled maintenance at Dogger Bank A and B. This vessel is due to be delivered in January 2024 and will also serve Dogger Bank C when this phase of the windfarm is operational. A further two SOVs will be delivered by North Star to be used for corrective maintenance, at Dogger Bank A and Dogger Bank B. Delivery of these vessels is scheduled for July 2023 and July 2024, respectively. A further contract for an SOV to be used for corrective maintenance at Dogger Bank C will be awarded at a later stage. The vessels will be chartered initially for 10 years, with an option for three one-year extensions.
North Star will create 130 new full-time UK-based jobs in crewing and shore-based roles for the lifetime of the contract. Recruitment for the roles will start 12 months ahead of vessel delivery. The new positions will be based across Scotland and the northeast of England and will grow North Star’s existing 1,400 strong workforce, 950 of which are in the UK and 350 of which are in Scotland.
Responding to the contract award, Scottish Government Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said, “This is excellent news for Aberdeen-based North Star Renewables, who are relatively new to the offshore wind sector but have a wealth of experience operating in the North Sea’s oil and gas sector. The contract is a welcome example of our domestic supply chain benefiting from the operation and maintenance of an offshore wind project off our coastline, bringing jobs and employment opportunities to communities in Scotland.”
North Star chief executive Matthew Gordon said, “We are pleased and proud to establish a new relationship with Equinor and are looking forward to working collaboratively with them and their partners, SSE Renewables and Eni.
“We have been working with our existing energy clients in the North Sea for over 40 years, with a reputation for delivering and operating offshore emergency support vessels safely. We are now committed to building on the momentum of this contract award to further our diversification and firmly establish ourselves at the forefront of vessel design and delivery in the global renewables market.”
Equinor will use Port of Tyne as its operations base for Dogger Bank. The company’s vice president for Dogger Bank, Halfdan Brustad said, “We are pleased that a UK supplier wins these contracts in a tough international competition. The awards will create a good basis for North Star to expand their services to support the UK’s growing offshore wind sector. Dogger Bank is at the forefront of innovation, and we want to attract the best talent to work on this ground-breaking project.
“These high-end SOVs will ensure our teams have a comfortable stay offshore, which is important before a day’s work on the turbines. We have incorporated leading technology to ensure we can operate the windfarm safely, sustainably and efficiently.”
Windfarm engineers and technicians will spend two weeks on board each of the vessels while working on the offshore windfarm. The SOVs will incorporate logistics platforms to allow windfarm personnel to work on the windfarm during the day, ensuring optimum wind turbine availability, and will have what North Star described as “hotel-grade comfort” in the living quarters for operational personnel at all other times.
The SOVs were designed for North Star Renewables by Vard in Norway to have a high level of operability and low fuel consumption and emissions. They will have digital decision support technology, advanced propulsion systems, hybrid power management, a waste heat recovery system, and a new daughter-craft design from Chartwell Marine.
The innovative Vard design will make use of a side-loading concept for streamlined logistics, eliminating the need for lifting when loading the vessels in port. They will use safe freight handling techniques used in the airline industry, with cargo management using ‘scan and track’ technology. The accommodation and public spaces on the vessels have been designed to be as light and airy as possible, to create a ‘home from home’ feeling, and all of the cabins for windfarm technicians will have daylight. An app-based system will be used to track those on board.
North Star Renewables said the new vessels will use an integrated digital twin, hardware in the loop and artificial intelligence technology. The dynamic positioning class 2 (DP2) ships will be SPS 60-compliant and bear DNV clean class notation.
The Vard 419 vessels will use eVSP propulsors from Voith, which combine technology from a conventional VSP with the Voith inline thruster. The eVSPs will confer a high level of manoeuvrability and provide roll stabilisation and help to reduce surge and sway. They will also have a retractable thruster and ‘rim drive’ thrusters. When alongside at a quay, the SOVs will take power from shore, reducing emissions in port. All three Dogger Bank SOVs will also be equipped with batteries. These will help to reduce overall fuel consumption and emissions, as well as provide emergency power back-up if needed.
The 30-m walk-to-work gangway for the vessels is intended for use in a significant wave height of in excess of 3.5 m and wind speeds of 20 m/second. Operation of the gangway will be integrated into the ships’ bridge management system. The gangway will also be capable of lifting 2 tonnes.
Windfarm technicians will also be able to access turbines using Chartwell Marine’s hybrid daughter craft, which will also have batteries to reduce emissions. A ‘Get up Safe’ motion-compensated lifting system, as pioneered on the Hornsea Two offshore windfarm will lift them from the deck of the craft. A boat landing on the SOVs will provide step-free access to the ship’s warehouse or to deck level.
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