Working in the offshore windfarm industry for the last ten years has been quite an interesting experience, to be part of a young industry where at the beginning you made it up you went along, until now where it seems that every part of the industry is controlled by some rule or procedure and sometimes you feel like you are banging your head against the wall to get even the simplest of things done. I know good working practices and health and safety have been proven to save lives in the workplace, but sometimes the ability to think for yourself is being taken away from people which I believe can cause greater problems.
Any way I digress as I have said earlier I have worked in the offshore wind farm industry for the last ten years as a captain of a crew transfer vessel, which basically meant at the beginning, taking engineers down the river Mersey each day and putting them on a wind turbine to carry out their work, it was fantastic to start off with, as my mate Bob and myself had come from the fishing industry and had never experienced anything like this. We could not believe that when it was bad weather and we could not go out, we would still get paid for the day, the only thing that we ever knew from fishing was no fish no money whatever the weather and we also did not live on the boat, the company provided a flat for us. Liverpool was very enjoyable as a first site to work and Bob and myself built up a good working relationship with the client and the engineers. This did help when we had little incidents, like a brand new £12,000, 300kg gearbox shaft fall out of the sky from about 15 metres, bounce of the front of the boat putting a nice little hole in it and then falling into the sea, all because an engineer could not be bothered to put the correct lifting arm on it for craning. This is when life gets a real pain, luckily no one was hurt but all you can think of is the inevitable paperwork chase and incident report for all parties involved and the follow up health and safety investigation.
After leaving Liverpool I moved onto Esbjerg in Denmark to work on horns reef two windfarm which was in its construction phase. This is probably the best windfarm site that I have ever worked on, the company I worked for only had three skippers with the right qualifications required by Danish maritime law at the beginning of the project and they needed at least twenty. Some of the skippers that were hired in their desperation were not of the best quality, but a good bit of crisis management seems to work wonders for your pay-packet. We worked very hard long days on that site and some of the jobs that we were required to do were a bit strange, like using our vessel as a brake for the small jack up ship that was installing the turbines, making sure that you did not squash your own vessel in the process. This was the first time I worked with the hotel ship which had a bit of a notorious reputation of being a ship bender because of the boat landings, but came away unscathed there.
After Horns Reef I came back to the uk to work out off Harwich on the greater gabbard wind farm, it probably was not as good for me as demark but still a good site to work on, the company who were contracted to build the site did not have a clue where to start in the construction of an offshore windfarm and I think that is where some of the more stranger ideas started to evolve. I seem to remember the client and the construction firm having some rare battles and relations were down the drain. I have since moved on from my last firm and I am working out of Germany who seem to be racing ahead with renewable energy projects, everything seems to have got bigger from the crew transfer vessels to the jack up installation vessels even the output size of the turbines have increased, up to 8 megawatts now and they are now talking about 15 megawatt turbines being developed for the future. On the crew transfer vessel side, it has become very competitive with a slowdown in construction over the last few years, the influx of vessels from the oil industry due to their downturn. The cash cow that was offshore wind farming has seen a bit of uncertainty in the small crew transfer vessel market with redundancies from some firms and streamlining of their fleets. New larger vessels with more passenger carrying capacity are now on demand from clients, with the ability to be able to work more hostile weather conditions.
It was my intention to finish my working career in the offshore industry, but life took a bit of a twist for my wife and myself where she fell ill and priorities changed overnight. It has meant that i have not been able to commit to working to any shift rotation and have just been filling in where i can. This did put a bit of a strain on the finances so had to have a bit of a rethink. As an ex fishing skipper i asked an old friend who was still fishing if there was anything doing in his company, it seems there is a shortage of class 1 skippers so i have managed to slot in on fishing vessels for a few trips.
Being able to do the trips on the fishing vessel has gave me a bit more flexibility, where as if the windfarm companys cannot use me then hopefully the fishing companies can or vice versa. But at the end of it, all that really matters now is to be there for Kim.