Staying ahead of the game
Offshore Wind’s continual compliance evolution
Gijsbert de Jong
Business Development Manager for Offshore Service Vessels,
Tugs & Dredgers
For Offshore Wind, like all maritime industries, regulations are a constantly evolving challenge, says Gijsbert de Jong of international classification society Bureau Veritas. “The interesting thing is that this is a relatively young industry, both in terms of industrial development and regulation. Because of this it relies a lot on lessons learned over the years in the oil and gas industry.”
Bureau Veritas has a dual role to play in the classification of offshore renewables vessels. On the one hand it develops its own standards and, on the other, carries out certification on behalf of flag states, encompassing every aspect of vessel development and operation.
“We review the design drawings, carry out construction inspections, and accompany the vessel on sea trials,” explains Mr De Jong. “It doesn’t end there, however; we carry out annual inspections and 5-yearly Class Renewal Inspections in dry-dock.”
According to Mr De Jong, the regulations affecting offshore wind vessels are many and varied. “You could conduct a study on it,” he says. Broadly speaking, however, there are two areas that are of utmost importance – safety, covered by SOLAS, and environmental protection, the domain of MARPOL.
“In the IMO currently, the biggest question is what we should do with the people who are brought from shore to work on turbines,” Mr de Jong states. The challenge begins as a result of the number of personnel involved. “If you transport up to 12 industrial personnel, then cargo vessel regulations apply. Any more and, technically speaking, you’re operating a passenger ship. The problem is, if you want to build offshore wind vessels fully compliant with SOLAS passenger regulations it’s going to be very difficult – practically and financially speaking.”
The solution, he says, is to train the technicians – many of whom have an onshore wind background – to be fully competent offshore. “We need to enforce standards of training and certification that see technicians recognised as ‘special personnel’. This category sits somewhere between cargo and passenger transportation. We already have a regulatory framework in place for this classification, thanks to the oil and gas industry.”
Training of personnel really is key, Mr De Jong says, as vessel designers are already preparing vessels for tomorrow’s regulations.