Building a ‘floatel’
Construction is set to begin late this year on a service operations vessel (SOV) that will transport technicians and equipment to support the massive wind turbines that Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy S.A. is installing for Dominion Energy Inc.’s $9.8 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project off the Virginia Beach coast.
Crowley Corp., a Jacksonville, Florida-based maritime, logistics and energy solutions company, has joined forces with Danish offshore maritime company ESVAGT to build and operate its first SOV. Washington, D.C.-based Fincantieri Marine Group will design and build the SOV at its Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, shipyard. The 289-foot vessel is scheduled to enter service in 2026 as part of a 15-year charter with Siemens Gamesa. It will be the third SOV built in the U.S. and will be homeported in Hampton Roads.
Through the companies’ joint venture, Crest Wind, Crowley will own and operate the vessel and employ its 15-member crew on behalf of Siemens, while ESVAGT will provide design, construction, crew training and operation services. Siemens Gamesa will employ the 65 technicians who will perform maintenance and repairs on the CVOW project’s 176 turbines.
“It’s a really cool vessel that is completely unique to the industry,” says Jeff Andreini, Crowley’s vice president for wind services. “It’s really a floatel.” Along with individual staterooms, the SOV will feature a cinema, game room and fitness facilities. A motion-compensated gangway and transfer boats will allow for safe access to the wind farm. Technicians will spend about 15 days a month at sea.
Crowley entered the offshore wind industry in 2016, chartering tugboats and barges to feeder companies to install offshore wind components. In 2020, the company began exploring SOV construction as part of its emphasis on renewable energy. “We wanted to build a full-service vessel to support both construction and operations and maintenance,” Andreini says. “ESVAGT is the No. 1 provider of SOVs in the European market. That gave us credibility with companies like Siemens Gamesa.”
Meanwhile, Dominion Energy’s $500 million Charybdis, the first U.S.-made vessel for installing offshore wind turbines, is under construction in Brownsville, Texas, and expected to be sea ready in late 2023. Its first charter is with Ørsted Offshore North America and Eversource’s Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind projects off the coasts of Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. Charybdis also will support the CVOW project, which is expected to be completed in 2026. The vessel will be homeported in Hampton Roads.