Setting Our Sights On Offshore Renewables

Offshore wind power is forecasted to reach USD$1 trillion over the next two decades. Mr Michael Bell, Senior Vice President of Business Development & Marketing, ST Engineering Marine, reveals his approach to capturing opportunities in this emerging market.

Q: The collapse of the Oil and Gas (O&G) sector has seen shipbuilders turning to opportunities in renewables. Tell us more about requirements in the renewables sector and the value that ST Engineering Marine can bring to this space.

Renewable wind farms are a huge business in Europe. Nearer home, in countries like Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Australia, strong initiatives are likewise being established to generate offshore power. Given the impetus to decarbonise electricity and flatten CO2 emissions despite global energy demand growth, the requirement for renewable wind power is here to stay.

Wind farms operators themselves are moving into deeper waters and further offshore, with predictions that average capital costs would fall by more than 40% by 2030. In fact, the market for offshore wind farms has grown at around 30% CAGR to date, since 2010. This has created fresh demand for various supporting infrastructure and services—from survey and installation platforms, to accommodation, service & maintenance, and crew transfer vessels (CTV). 

As with all offshore vessels, there is usually a high degree of engineering and customisation involved. This is to ensure the stability and reliability of the vessel in high sea-state conditions, as well as the safety and comfort of crew who have to operate in those conditions, often up to two or three weeks at a stretch. 

If you look across our shipbuilding portfolio, we have a really good alignment to these requirements. We have built a large number of anchor handlers and platform supply vessels, which gives us the basic offshore experience. We have also completed complex RoPax projects, and are familiar with the design and development of accommodation vessels.  A third and key attribute is the deployment of Dynamic Positioning (DP) systems, used in our dive support vessels to keep them steady and in position. Our familiarity with high-speed craft is the other advantage. If you put all of these experiences together, we’re actually very well equipped to build for the renewables segment.

Q: How successful have you been at adapting existing technologies, and how would you differentiate your offerings and solutions?

We had been focused on developing a portfolio of vessels that displays our capability and areas of interest at first, but this has now extended to include a number of concept developments and research projects. The 76m Dual-Fuel LNG Catamaran that was jointly developed with our Australian partner, Incat Crowther, would be a good example. This vessel was conceived to support both renewables and O&G operations.

We are witnessing growing market interest in LNG power due to the tightening of emission regulations. Our success at incorporating a medium-speed Dual Fuel engine on board the catamaran enables it to achieve the high-speeds traditionally associated with diesel engines while running on cleaner, lower-emission fuel. The safe storage of highly volatile LNG had been a critical design consideration—something we have accomplished with ConRo/RoPax LNG vessels like the TainoEl Coquí and the Q-LNG 400. Other definitive features included a wave piercing semi-SWATH hull design fitted with a ride-control system, an advanced DP2 system, and a heave-compensated walk-to-work gangway to provide safer crew transfers out in open seas. 

It is possible to reconfigure the 76m platform into a service operations vessel (SOV) to accommodate up to 30 technicians in single cabins and 24 crew members in various configurations. As an SOV with unprecedented speeds, the vessel can be rapidly deployed between different wind parks to support emergency maintenance programmes. We have been conducting extensive market research to factor in new performance parameters required by the renewable energy segment. Our key advantage has been the ability to draw on a depth of engineering experience to tailor safer, greener, and more cost-effective outcomes into our offshore solutions.

Q: How else is ST Engineering Marine positioning itself to capture the renewables market?

The oil glut has driven many shipyards to seek a second chance in offshore operations through renewables. The ability to survive the competition would have to depend on their track record and product lines. Points of differentiation remain the key priority to vessel owners and operators, and shipbuilders must be able to stand up to client-dictated designs. ST Engineering Marine has a product portfolio that demonstrates our competency and value creation in custom requirements.

We have supported some of the best naval and coastal defence forces, with recent innovations ranging from littoral mission vessels to heavy fire vessels and the Super Swift series of fast patrol boats. It is clear from these successes that high-complexity vessels are what we do best.

Looking ahead, the game plan would be to identify new variants for the renewables segment. We have been talking to renewable majors who value Singapore’s location, ST Engineering’s Triple-A credit rating, a high standard of build quality, and reliability that comes from a custom-engineered vessel. Ultimately, our goal is to design a vessel that delivers the best return on investment. This, coupled with our experience and track record, would set us apart from the competition.