Posted on September 25, 2023
Construction has begun on the next large U.S.-built vessel for the offshore wind sector. Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin held the ceremonial first steel cut for a Service Operation Vessel (SOV) which represents the company’s entry into the U.S. offshore wind sector and another demonstration of the contribution to the shipbuilding industry coming from the emerging wind sector.
The steel-cutting ceremony took place at the shipyard on September 20 marking the start of work on the vessel which was ordered in January 2023 by CREST Wind, a joint venture between Crowley and ESVAGT. The core design was developed by HAV Design of Norway, a specialist in SOVs, and the Fincantieri Marine Group has been completing the designs customized for the U.S. application and preparing it for construction.
“The steel-cutting ceremony is the moment in time, where the design has developed to the point where we’re ready to turn it over to the craftsmen, the artisans of this great shipyard,” Ray Martus, the CREST Wind Project Manager, told WTAQ-WLUK at the ceremony.
The 288-foot vessel will employ state-of-the-art technologies such as a motion-compensated gangway and transfer boats to augment safety, workability, and comfort to support the O&M activities of the wind farm project. It will have accommodations for 80 crew and technicians and provide recreational activities, including fitness facilities, a game room, a cinema, and individual accommodations.
The vessel will be operating under a long-term charter to Siemens Gamesa which will be providing services to the Dominion Energy wind farm off the coast of Virginia. Executives at the steel-cutting ceremony told local reporters that the vessel is expected to be completed by early 2025 and will undergo sea trials on the Great Lakes. It will then be transferred to the U.S. East Coast where it is expected to be commissioned by 2026.
This marks the second large SOV being built in U.S. shipyards to be Jones Act compliant and the fourth large vessel overall ready to support the emerging offshore wind industry. In the spring, Louisiana shipbuilder Edison Chouest Offshore reported that it had reached the halfway mark in the construction of another SOV for the wind sector. The vessel is slightly smaller than the one Fincantieri is building as it will be 262 feet in length with accommodations for up to 60 technicians. It is due to enter service next year supporting Ørsted’s U.S. wind farms.
The two other large U.S. shipbuilding projects for the wind industry include the Charybdis, a wind turbine installation vessel under construction at the Keppel AmFELS shipyard in Brownsville, Texas. The vessel will be owned by a subsidiary of Dominion Energy. In July, Philly Shipyard in Pennsylvania marked the first steel cut for a rock installation vessel being built for Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corp. The ship is due for delivery in 2024 and they also have an option for a sister vessel.
The Biden administration highlights that companies have announced 18 offshore wind shipbuilding projects as well as investments of nearly $3.5 billion across 12 manufacturing facilities and 13 ports to develop the American offshore wind supply chain. In addition to the SOVs and other large vessels, there are multiple projects underway in U.S. shipyards to build smaller crew transfer vessels.
Fincantieri views this as a significant project as they look to expand further into the sector to support the offshore wind industry. The expectation is that as the industry moves into construction and commercial operations, it will require additional investments in Jones Act compliant ships.