Report Highlights Urgency for Investments in Offshore Wind Support Vessels


At the Polish Wind Energy Association’s Annual Conference 2022 in Serock, Poland, WindEurope and the Polish Wind Energy Association released a new report on the availability of offshore wind vessels up to 2030. The report, focusing on the Baltic Sea region, concludes that investments in new vessels are urgently needed for Poland and other Baltic Sea countries to deliver their current offshore wind ambitions.

A major expansion of Europe’s offshore wind capacity is on the horizon, and Poland wants to be a leading player. The country aims to build 28 GW of new offshore wind capacity by 2050. The new report finds that the upcoming global shortage of specialized offshore wind vessels might pose a risk for project execution in Poland and worldwide. Poland should see the shortage as an opportunity to build up a fleet of modern vessels to service national and international markets.

Poland does not yet have any offshore wind farms but is seeking to install around 6 GW by 2030 and 11 GW by 2040. The first offshore wind farm could enter into operation as soon as 2026.

Poland is not the only Baltic Sea country with offshore wind ambitions. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania all want to commission their first offshore wind turbines before 2030. Sweden has identified areas in the Baltic Sea for future wind farms. And experienced players like Germany and Denmark are determined to further increase their offshore wind capacity in the region.

The total offshore wind capacity in the Baltic Sea will reach 35 GW by 2030, up from 2.8 GW in 2021. Most of these new projects will be built toward the end of the decade: nearly 31 GW will be built in the period 2026-2030.

Over the period of 2011-2020, the global offshore wind market grew on average by 22%. There will be more competition for specialized offshore wind vessels, as the growth of the market accelerates. It is unlikely that Poland and other Baltic Sea countries can contract large numbers of vessels from other markets, as the expansion of offshore wind is gaining momentum worldwide. The EU alone wants to build 300 GW of offshore wind by 2050, up from 15 GW today.

The report finds a shortage of foundation installation vessels (FIV) and wind turbine installation vessels (WTIV) already by 2024 and 2025. But the biggest demand for FIVs and WTIVs will be between 2028 and 2030. By the end of the decade, single turbines could reach up to 20 MW in scale. During the peak, 5-10 FIVs and 5-9 WTIVs will be needed in the Baltic Sea. These vessels are facing additional challenges as offshore wind turbines are increasing in size and weight.

For cable-laying vessels (CLV), the gap between supply and demand will be even greater over the next eight years. Poland alone will need 3-4 of these vessels.

The availability of service operation vessels (SOV) used for operation and maintenance activities should not pose a problem, although investments in new SOVs are needed. Building new SOVs takes less time, and other vessels can be converted into SOVs.

If Europe invests in its FIV, WTIV and CLV fleet now, the worst shortages in the period 2028-2030 can still be avoided. If it fails, the buildout of offshore wind in the Baltic Sea and elsewhere could face significant delays. Therefore, the report urges governments to address the looming shortage as soon as possible.

The lack of specialized vessels for offshore wind operations is just one indication of the poor condition of Europe’s wind energy supply chain. The European wind industry is facing an unprecedented combination of overlapping challenges: the post-COVID rebound and its effect on the costs of materials and shipping, ongoing lockdowns in China and their effects on global supply chains and the war in Ukraine further reducing the availability of key raw materials. In the first quarter of 2022, all five European wind turbine manufacturers were operating at a loss.

New vessels require significant new investments. For investors and new ship owners to purchase new additions to the fleet, governments around Europe should create an investment-friendly environment by providing clear auction schedules and timelines for future installations, the report says. They must ensure that these timelines are met, which means streamlining national permitting procedures. And they should avoid imposing additional costs on offshore wind developers. To this end, governments should not use negative bidding in offshore wind auctions, the report advises.

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Fred Golden
Fred Golden
1 year ago

They need to start building cranes with two cables and hooks on them, with perhaps 3-12 meters between the two hooks at the top of the crane, so that something like a wind turbine blade can be lifted with dual attachment points, and it’s angle can be adjusted while in the air, and it can be lifted with higher wind speeds, as the spread out attachment points will add stability at 12 MPH winds compared to a single crane hook, that can swing in the wind. They should also add a canvas method to prevent the wind from reaching the… Read more »