Home' Work Boat World : August 2010 Contents The best is not always left to last
Oil pollution and recovery vessels are a feature in this issue -- at
least according to the schedule handed out to me late last year.
Well, how's the timing? Surely it's either perfect or appalling.
"Perfect" because as I write just about every man, woman, child
and animal is thinking and talking about a certain oil spill in the
Gulf of Mexico. Presumably that means plenty of folks within the
marine and offshore industries are pondering how well they could
respond to a similar crisis. The flow-on effect of that, as best I can
guess, should be increased expenditure on response measures in
No official who saw the BP executives taking their medicine at
the White House would want to be in a similar situation, because
nobody wants to take the heat for either causing such a disaster or
being ill-prepared to deal with one. Surely there has been no better
time to go to the bean counters and ask for more money to get
some more skimmers, some more booms... "just to be sure". For
that reason alone I would expect to be seeing plenty of suppliers
promoting their wares in the preceding pages.
Unless, of course, they are already simply too busy to either
need, want, or be able to tell those of us behind our desks or in our
cabins what it is they produce, and how it can help avert, or revert,
the kinds of scenes that have been splashed across televisions and
newspapers in recent times.
Now, at times I am expected to offer opinions, but if you think I
am going to weigh in on the various adjacent topics to this mess
you are sadly mistaken. Unlike, it seems, just about everyone else,
I'm not going to become an overnight expert on what caused the
explosion, who should pay, who's to blame, whether the Jones Act
adversely affects the response, or whether the BP boss should go
sailing. I'd rather leave it to a proper investigative and review
process to do all that.
What I would like to do, though, is to ask you to remember that
at the start of all this was a terrible human tragedy to remind us
how dangerous our business can be. So I'd just like to suggest that
we all take some time to think about how we can make our jobs
safer for ourselves, our colleagues and the environment. That way
we might all learn something.
Of course nowadays the offshore industry is not just about
getting hydrocarbons out from under the seabed (without
getting it into the water).
Today, we also have a growing market in renewable energy
production offshore. For those of you who still live in a carbon
haze, offshore renewables is the catch-all term for wave, tidal and
wind power. [As an aside, having just written that, it makes me
think that sailors should be credited with inventing this industry
-- they have always strived to make the most of the combined
power of wind, waves, tides and currents].
Of these, the one that truly seems to have the wind at its back
(pun fully intended) is offshore wind. There seems to have been a
mad rush to get wind farms up and running, and while this can
obviously be done on land, it would seem a key attraction of
placing them offshore is that they are then not in anybody's
backyard. Well, at least not a voter's.
Presumably someone will tell me that there are also advantages
in terms of wind strength, but I can't imagine those are that
significant. Indeed, I vaguely recall someone telling me that
sticking a windmill out to sea results in the energy it produces
costing three times more than a land-based turbine. If those
numbers are correct, then you'd have to think the main driver for
going into the deep blue yonder is the NIMBY effect.
For now, most of the action has been in Europe and, in particular,
Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK -- rich economies
(well, perhaps not so much the Brits at present) where land, and
views, are precious. It will be interesting to see if less affluent
countries go down the same route -- I can't imagine some of the
countries with vast tracts of comparatively useless land (i.e. desert)
bothering to venture out into their EEZ unless they simply don't get
wind inland. Back to Europe though, and I can tell you that there is
feverish activity on the marine front, at least partly driven by the
same difficulties that make offshore wind more expensive.
It's not hard to imagine that putting a big windmill out in the
ocean, and keeping it running, is not the easiest thing in the
world. Certainly it's not as easy as it is on terra firma. Then
consider that you are trying to do this where, for the purposes of
power generation, you want it to be as windy as possible as often
as possible. And that for the purposes of keeping the locals happy
you want it to be a fair way offshore so that it does not impinge on
"visual amenity" or whatever it is they call it.
Not surprising, then, that our industry has cottoned on to the
fact that specialist vessels and equipment are needed. And so it is
that we can add at least two new acronyms to our ever-growing list
-- WFIV and WFSV. If you guess WF stands for wind farm, you
don't get a prize. That's pretty obvious. If you got V for vessel,
same story. The I and the S are Installation and Support, and the
pundits are predicting fairly significant shortfalls in both regards in
the coming years, as many other nations -- even, perhaps, the
oil-loving United States -- start to go with flow. How long these
winds will blow is anyone's guess, but you can be sure that there
are plenty of people out there who consider it a gold rush.
Got a tip? -- Aft_Lines@hotmail.com or Find me on Facebook
'Wind Force 1', the first German-flagged WFSV, was reviewed in Work Boat
World July, page 26
August 2010 WORK BOAT WORLD
Links Archive July 2010 September 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page