Reflecting its renewed competitiveness in the international market for small and medium sized commercial vessels, Austal has secured a new contract for the design and construction of three wind farm support vessels. The 27 metre catamarans will be used by UK-based Turbine Transfers to support wind turbine installation and maintenance activities in European waters. Austal will build them at its shipyard in the Philippines over a period of approximately nine months, commencing in March 2013.
Commenting on the new contract Austal’s Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Bellamy, said: “Austal decided to pursue the growing market for wind farm boats in mid-2010. Having spent the first year working hard to better understand the market’s expectations we signed our first contract in July last year. "During that initial 12 month marketing period we did a lot of research and design development and also confirmed that Austal needed to regionalise its manufacturing base in order to be successful. The company acquired a shipyard in the Philippines last November for that very reason.
“Now, as our contracts demonstrate, Austal has the vessel designs customers want and the right production cost base to successfully leverage that intellectual property. Our strategy has been so successful that the Philippines shipyard now employs over 220 staff, continues to grow and is currently fully utilised into the first quarter of next financial year,” he added. Mr Bellamy stressed that Austal can still take on further projects and provide prospective clients with high quality vessels in short time frames.
“The capacity and efficiency of our Philippines shipyard means we are still able to meet market demand for vessels delivered in the first half of 2014. We continue to aggressively pursue further projects for wind farm boats, ferries and other commercial vessels,” he said. This is Austal’s third new project for Turbine Transfers in a little over 15 months. Three 21 metre catamarans were ordered in July 2011 and delivered to Europe earlier this year. Construction of a 27 metre TRI SWATH ordered in January 2012 is nearing completion at the Philippines shipyard.
Managing Director of Turbine Transfers, Captain Mark Meade, said his company was using Austal technology to support the next phase of wind farm development which would see a much larger number of turbines installed farther offshore and in other areas with rougher sea conditions. “Our experience with Austal to date, including bringing our first three Wind Express catamarans into service, has demonstrated the benefits of Austal’s vast experience and knowledge in all aspects of commercial vessel design, manufacture and support,” Captain Meade said.
“I am pleased to once again work with Austal to develop a further three high-quality wind farm service vessels which will join our existing fleet which will soon have 30 boats. Our operational knowledge and Austal’s skills will once again combine to deliver better boats to the industry.” Rugged and versatile, the new Wind Express 27 catamarans will be able to transport 12 personnel and 10 tonnes of equipment/stores to and from turbines. This includes containerised items on forward and/or aft decks. Powered by four Caterpillar C18 diesels and propelled and steered by Rolls Royce Kamewa waterjets, they will be able to operate at in excess of 27 knots. An Austal integrated monitoring, alarm and control system with touch screen interface will be configured such that all vessels functions are available from a central location on the bridge.
Austal’s advanced Z-bow hullform coupled with high tunnel clearance allows the Wind Express 27 to maintain higher speeds in waves than competing catamarans, reducing both exposure to seasickness and service times per turbine. A ride control system consisting of forward T-foils and transom interceptors is fitted to further reduce unwanted motion and provide dynamic trim control. The vessels will normally operate with a crew of two, however the design includes four single berth cabins which makes it possible to operate around-the-clock with two crews of two. The cabins are in the superstructure, which is resiliently mounted to reduce noise and vibration transmitted from the hull. The catamarans are being designed and built to Det Norske Veritas +1A1 HSLC Windfarm Service 1 R1 classification and United Kingdom MGN 280 Area Category 1 requirements.