VTS & Maritime Surveillance Issues & Solutions

Renewable Energy - Offshore Wind

Offshore Wind is one of the most acceptable forms of renewable energy. Being offshore, it is in no-ones back yard and has enabled the deployment of far bigger turbine structures than would be permitted on land. The early days of Offshore Wind saw small wind farms developed within the territorial sea (within 12nm of the coastline). However, following the Round 3 concessions that were granted by the UK Crown Estate at the beginning of 2011, Offshore Wind has moved further offshore and well beyond the limits of the Territorial Sea where a mandatory VTS could be established to manage maritime vessel activity. The UK Round 3 concessions licensed developers to produce up to 32GW of offshore wind power generation brining the total potential renewable capacity for UK to over 40GW.

However, placing a huge array of substantial, high value assets within an area of the sea does present a potential hazard to navigation and its constriction requires a substantial number of vessels, people and other large scale infrastructure. An offshore wind construction site carries many of the same hazards as any onshore building site but it is more difficult to protect an offshore wind construction site from unauthorised third party access, whether deliberate or accidental.

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Wind farm Construction - Managing Vessels & People

Health & Safety regulations mean that any wind farm developer must ensure adequate safety for all personnel (onshore and offshore). For offshore wind farms, health & safety regulations also meet maritime safety regulations and therefore a safety focussed environment for offshore development has greater challenges to overcome. In particular, deploying personnel from workboats to turbine structures involves substantial risk.

The larger the offshore wind farm, the larger the number of vessels and people that are required for its construction. It is therefore important it is to manage vessels within the sea area around the wind farm during construction and to effectively manage vessel operations on the construction site to maximise the workforce hours of the personnel deployed for its construction. The further offshore it is, the more remote monitoring will be required. With many planned offshore wind farms being beyond the range of the coastal sensors used by maritime authorities, it will become essential that the wind farm operations management is able to manage its offshore sea area for itself, especially during the construction phase of its lifecycle.

Managing offshore operations involves two key functions:

Marine Coordination Systems are used to manage offshore vessel activity efficiently. These systems use the same technology as onshore VTS or coastal surveillance systems. However, additional bespoke applications are necessary for the Offshore Wind sector including people tracking in order to identify which personnel are working on which offshore turbine site.

More information about setting up Marine Coordination and People Tracking facilities can be obtained through our
contact page.

Marine Coordination

Marine Coordination is the term used for the implementation of VTS technology on an Offshore Windfarm. It is used for the purpose of managing marine traffic during the Construction and Operation & Maintenance phases of the windfarm project lifecycle.

Offshore Windfarms are a hazard to maritime traffic. In addition, due to the radar reflective properties of the turbines, they can cause problems for navigators by creating a large radar echo on the bridge ARPA displays. Therefore, the provision effective monitoring is essential as the on board navigator may be viewing a confusing image.

Many of the early offshore wind farms were located close to the coastline and so the management of crew transfer vessels and other offshore installation vessels during both the Construction and the Operation & Maintenance phases of the wind farm lifecycle could be easily managed from onshore. However, with wind farms moving further offshore, and into deeper water, there is a need for an effective remote management capability in order to ensure that safety is effectively managed.

Effective Marine Coordination

The key objective of the Marine Coordination function of an offshore wind farm is achieving the most efficient use of assets during Construction and throughout the Operation & Maintenance phase. Effective Marine Coordination can provide substantial cost savings during the Construction phase when many vessels and people will be employed to build the offshore wind farm. If people, or vessels, are not in the right place at the right time then time is wasted while offshore workers wait for a transfer to the turbine of to their next task. If such delays are multiipled across the entire workforce then the cost of Construction increases dramatically. An effective Marine Coordination System comprising the right technology with skilled Operators can therefore provide substantial dividends to the Wind farm developer by maximising the working hours offshore while maintaining good health & safety principles. The marine coordination system will usually include a means of tracking the location of each offshore worker to ensure efficient operations and so that the Marine Coordinator can ensure that everyone is accounted for in the event of an incident (See People Tracking).

Many Marine Coordination Systems use AIS as the principle means of monitoring and tracking vessels. However, effective Marine Coordination is dependent on knowing what is happening offshore and AIS will only present information about AIS equipped vessels. Additional features such as radar and CCTV provide a good means of ensuring that all vessels on the wind farm are visible to the Marine Coordinator and presented on his system. Communication is also essential so that the Marine Coordinator can communicate and provide information to the skipper of each Crew Transfer Vessel and so ensuring the right technical solution for each wind farm project is essential. Please
contact us for further advise.

People Tracking

The offshore wind sector frequently deploys a lot of people to multiple offshore locations throughout the various phases of the wind farm lifecycle. Keeping track of all personnel is important from both the legal “duty of care” perspective as well as from the point of view of efficient time / work management and quick evacuation in the event of an emergency. The transfer of Offshore Workers from Vessels to Turbine structures involve significant risks and therefore it is vital to ensure conditions are safe for such transfers.

People tracking technology is normally incorporated into the Marine Coordination System used by the wind farm developer. It will identify the number of personnel that are located on each offshore structure and also those travelling between offshore locations on one of the Crew Transfer Vessels (CTVs) or Workboats. The Marine Coordination System will provide the real time picture of personnel locations and enable real time management of offshore work programmes and facilitate quick responses to any emergency. However, the People Tracking technology may also be integrated with a database system so that work patterns can be analysed with a view to improving efficiency and validation checks can be applied to ensure all training is up to date and thereby ensuring that safety standards are maintained and only authorised personnel are allowed offshore.

Typically, People Tracking will involve monitoring the movement of personnel onto and off of CTVs. The Marine Coordination System tracks the movement of CTVs and so the location of all boarding and disembarking is known to the system. In this way, the system will be able to record which turbines are visited by each worker throughout the day and using which CTV. From the Health & Safety point of view, the location of all personnel are known at all times. The database provides a profile for each worker and enables all training records to be kept up to date with timely warnings advising when refresher courses should be taken. Integration with the Marine Coordination System will provide alerts should workers board vessels when their training and approvals have expired. In this way, the wind farm developer can ensure high safety and duty of care standards at all times.
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