CT shipyard turns commercial fishing boat into vessel that will aid East Coast offshore wind project


A Bridgeport-based shipyard has joined a growing number of marine companies in helping to meet the growing demand for vessels to service the offshore wind farm industry being developed off the East Coast.

Hornblower Marine recently completed the conversion of a former commercial fishing boat into a fully operational crew transfer vessel for Coast Line Transfers. New Bedford, Mass.-based Coast Line Transfers is a service provider for the offshore wind industry and has been involved in the development of the Vineyard Wind project, which is currently under construction about 30 miles off of Cape Cod and 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Power is expected to begin flowing from the Vineyard Wind project later this year and the 800-megawatt wind farm, which will produce enough electricity for 400,000 homes and businesses, is expected to be fully operational by August or September of next year.

Hornblower Marine’s conversion of the former fishing boat Nice Day Too, to the crew transfer vessel Capt. Les Eldridge, marked the company’s first conversion job for an outside client.

The company had previously converted one of its own ships, the off shore supply ship Gateway Endeavor, into a crew transfer vessel. Hornblower Marine has a contract with GE Renewables, which manufactures and sells wind turbines, and needs to provide crew transfer support to the wind turbines at sea, Tim O’Brien, senior vice president with Hornblower’s Ferries and Transportation division, said of the reason for changeovers.

O’Brien declined to say what the price range is for the conversions, which includes modifying the front bow of the boats involved.

“It’s a pretty substantial amount,” he said of the cost.

Other modifications to the vessels include installation of different onboard safety systems, modifications to upper decks that allow for larger cargo storage areas, and upgrades that include larger windows in the pilot house to allow those at the controls a complete view of passenger embarkation.

The work being done by Hornblower Marine comes at a time when the offshore wind industry is investing heavily in ships that are needed to build the wind farms. Companies within the industry have invested in over 30 vessels needed to build the offshore wind farms, as well as to maintain them going forward, according to the American Clean Power Association, a renewable energy trade group.

The majority of the vessels that offshore wind companies are currently investing in are crew transfer vessels, which are used to transport the technicians that maintain the wind turbines to their off shore locations.

Claire Richer,  the American Clean Power Association’s director of offshore wind, said that the demand for vessels to build and service the turbines that produce the power is strong right now, because the volume of projects being proposed is so large.

“This (the amount of wind farms) is something that is very common elsewhere, but it is something we are doing for the first time on the East Coast,” Richer said.

There are just two U.S. off shore energy projects currently operating, according to the federal government’s Energy Information Administration. One is the Block Island wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island that has a generating capacity of 30 megawatts of electricity, and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project, which has a 12 megawatt capacity.

But as of the end of last year, plans for an additional 7,500 megawatts of generation capacity were being proposed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of five states, with another 20 megawatts of capacity proposed in Lake Erie off the shores of Ohio.

With some off shore wind farms calling for as many as 60 turbines per project, Richer said the need for more vessels to service the industry is likely to go well beyond the more than 30 ships that have already been invested in.

“The operations vessels are going to be needed for the full (operating) life spans of these projects,” she said. “And some of these projects are going to be built simultaneously.”

Source: CT Insider