Container Ships at Risk of Hitting Offshore Wind Installations

Offshore wind is a clean, renewable, and abundant energy resource; countries across the planet are working to harness it. In the United States, President Biden signed an executive order to “reeestablish the Federal Government as a leader in sustainability…” which included a commitment to generate at least 30 gigawatts of power from offshore wind installations by 2030.

This is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of preserving natural resources, but there are some issues to consider. One of these is the impact that building and maintaining these offshore wind farms will have on maritime workers. The other is how it might affect maritime traffic, specifically container vessels.

In April 2022, a rotor and 3 blades separated from an offshore wind turbine at the 400-megawatt Anholt Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Denmark. No one was injured in the incident, but the company that operates the offshore wind installation temporarily implemented “no-sail zones” at all farms using the same turbine as the one that failed. An investigation into the cause of the rotor and blade separation is ongoing as of the time of this writing.

In January 2022, a container vessel named the Julietta D. struck an offshore wind installation that was being built in the North Sea. The vessel, which was sailing from Germany to Amsterdam, was cast adrift by a storm when it struck the foundation of a platform (called a jacket). The container ship’s 18-member crew was airlifted to safety after the vessel started taking on water. Thankfully, no one was injured.

The collision involving the Julietta D. spurred the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) to test barriers that would prevent such events in the first place. An estimated 80 vessels go adrift in the North Sea every year, and more than 2,500 offshore wind turbines are expected to be constructed in the North Sea by 2030. Taking just these two figures into consideration, it is plain to see that offshore wind farm collisions are only going to become more likely if nothing is done to prevent them.

MARIN tested three types of barriers that would prevent collisions between vessels and offshore wind installations. The first used a string of floating buoys secured by anchors. The second method used a suspension net between fixed poles. The third used an underwater line with a hook that would catch a drifting vessel’s anchor. Using scale models and generated storm conditions at its facilities, MARIN determined that all three methods showed promise and warranted further testing and development.

Adrift or not, container ships and all other maritime vessels will need to safely coexist with the growing number of offshore wind farms across the planet. Even with designated shipping routes or “maritime freeways” as they’re often called, the sheer number of turbines can present a risk. This is true if they fail like the turbine at the Anholt Offshore Wind Farm or if a vessel collides with a turbine or any part of an offshore wind farm such as occurred with the Julietta D.

Whether they’re implementing innovative barriers like the ones tested by MARIN, are taking preventative measures to ensure container ships are not cast adrift in severe weather, or a combination of the two, maritime companies must add this to their laundry list of methods aimed at reducing collisions and protecting offshore workers’ lives.

At Arnold & Itkin, we have been representing injured seamen and their families since 2004. We have secured results like no other maritime firm, helping good people get answers and secure the level of compensation that ensures they’re taken care of for the rest of their lives. To find out more about our maritime injury lawyers, our results, and our team, please feel free to give us a call at (888) 346-5024 or to fill out our online form for a free consultation.

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