Not much can be done when a lack of wind causes the blades attached to the enormous wind turbines at the offshore wind farms Hornsea 1 and Hywind in the North Sea to stand still. On the contrary, if the standstill is caused by a mechanical error, it’s critical the service boats from the Scottish Maritime Craft Services can react rapidly despite wind and weather conditions to restart the windmills. 

“Mechanical errors and other damages to the windmills should be fixed as soon as possible,” said Ewan Manson, operations superintendent at Maritime Craft Services. “Downtime means a great loss for all parties — from the owners of the windfarm to the consumers who use the power. For that reason, it’s crucial that we can trust our equipment and that the boats can get back in action as soon as possible, if they break down.

Service boats are critical infrastructure

The Scottish maritime service company has 11 crew transfer vessels in operation, two of which are driven by two controllable-pitch propellers and tailshaft solutions that are custom made in the production facilities at Hundested Propeller in Denmark’s Northern Zealand region. The boat at Hornsea 1 is, likewise, equipped with two gearboxes also delivered by the Danish experts. The choice of Hundested Propeller as supplier is not coincidental.

“Our vessels make up a part of the offshore farms’ critical infrastructure, and they must be operational 12 or 24 hours a day despite the weather conditions,” Manson said. “We demand extremely durable and operationally secure solutions for exactly that reason, and we know that the Danes can deliver.”

Hundested Propeller is pleased with the show of trust, as durability and safety are two of the most important qualities to the company with a 100-year history of manufacturing marine equipment.

“Our solutions are built on a roster of core products that we have developed based on many years of experience and expertise,” said Henrik Damsgaard, chief technology director at Hundested Propeller. “When we design and produce custom solutions for a client, the goal is that it must be able to outlive the boat itself.

The SWATH service vessels from Maritime Craft Services have been operational since 2016 and 2019, respectively, and, since delivery of the first vessel, the Scots have had Hundested Propeller on speed dial in case of a sudden accident. They have needed assistance twice, where the two vessels have required dry dock repairs. Both times the Danes’ swift response and delivery times have been crucial.

“Our vessels are off-hired if they aren’t operational or available for the wind farms,” Manson said. “So, when we have parts that need serviced or replaced, speed and service level is crucial for deciding on a partner for the job.

“Our experiences with Hundested Propeller have been exceptional,” he continued. “They understood the necessity of getting the vessel back on duty as soon as possible, and they managed to deliver on the solution in less than a week — half the time we would usually expect. We have also worked with them on improving the systems and, as a result, we have experienced fewer issues than we did with the vessels before.”