UK Changes Rules for Crew Vessels to Support Wind Farm Industry Growth

MCA UK changes rules for wind farm vessels transporting crew
UK changed the rules for vessels carrying crew to wind farms (FOE file photo)

Published Feb 9, 2022 8:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.K.’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency announced new rules designed to support the servicing of the rapidly growing offshore wind farm industry. The legislative changes governing the operation of offshore supply vessels followed discussions between the MCA and the industry looking at how to solve the logistical problems of transporting workers to the offshore sites.

The U.K. already has one of the largest installed bases for offshore wind with more than 10 GW of installed offshore wind farms and continues to pursue significant future development. Auctions were recently completed off Scotland for example with the exploration proceeding for additional areas along the coastline. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for at least 40 GW of offshore power by 2030.

The challenge identified by the MCA and the industry is that offshore vessels used to transport workers to offshore wind farms were legally allowed to only carry 12 people, no matter the size of the vessel. Under the old regulations, to carry more workers to and from their place of work the boats would have had to comply with more onerous safety requirements for passenger ships.

“I'm pleased that we can reduce red tape while maintaining the highest safety standards to support the offshore wind industry,” said Maritime Minister Robert Courts announcing the change in the regulations. “Our offshore wind sector is a key part of our energy infrastructure, and one of our great success stories, creating jobs for coastal communities across the UK.”

Under the new rules, that became effective on February 9, High Speed Offshore Service Craft will be able to transport up to 60 workers. The change will mean that vessels transporting those who work on offshore wind farms will be able to carry greater numbers of workers while still meeting safety standards.

As part of the change in regulation, workers on offshore wind farms are classified differently from normal passengers. They will be required to be “fit and to have undertaken specialist marine safety and survival training.”

Gwilym Stone, Assistant Director, Ship Standards at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said “There are currently around 46 vessels of this type operating in UK waters. This new legislation provides legal clarity to the offshore wind farm industry to carry workers to and from wind farms dependent on each individual vessels' capacity. This brings the U.K. in line with many other countries that already have similar regulations in place.”

According to the MCA, the change in regulations came about after a six-week consultation during the late summer with the industry and regulators. They are pleased that the new rules will provide a solution to the increasing number of logistical problems in the operation and maintenance of these wind farms, which are being developed ever further from the shore while maintaining the U.K. heritage for rigorous safety standards.