As the home for a growing list of sector supply chain companies and the world leading test facilities of ORE Catapult as well as numerous internationally significant projects, Port of Blyth knows what it takes to support the renewables sector. Head of Commercial Alasdair Kerr explains more.
Having been there at the very beginning of the UK offshore wind industry - as the location for the first turbines ever installed in UK waters in 2000 - Port of Blyth is now at the forefront of supporting the renewables sector as it tackles its next big challenge: scaling the opportunity.
Here in Blyth we have always seen our role as one of facilitation; in providing the amenities and support to clients working, often in challenging circumstances, to complete complex projects on time and on budget. As time has gone on though, the role of the port has developed significantly from simply the provision of quayside facilities.
One stop shop
Blyth now offers a true one stop shop for those delivering projects in the renewables sector thanks to a mature supply chain of experienced and talented companies located on site and in the surrounding the area. The Port has deliberately nurtured this supply chain so that more than 40 companies, including leading tenants Global Marine, Osbit, Royal IHC and Texo, are now on hand to deliver a huge array of services from design and fabrication to welding and scaffolding, and everything in between.
As everyone knows, not everything goes to plan on complex projects. This means that innovative ideas and creative thinking are key and we’ve often seen critical contributions from the supply chain on site make a huge difference to projects that are suffering from unforeseen issues or changes in scope.
And the Port plays its part too. With a wealth of experience across internationally significant projects over the last two decades, we have a team in place that is solution focused, customer centric and dedicated to health & safety. Be it heavy lift operations, complex vessel movements, cable spooling & storage or any other requirement, the Port of Blyth is a willing, proactive partner.
Flexibility in port services provided to the offshore energy sector isn’t about simply shifting vessels around to accommodate a new customer at short notice... although berth availability is a USP at the Port of Blyth! True flexibility means taking a 360-degree approach to each and every project:
Vessel types: Offshore energy ports now routinely service a variety of vessel types with a wide range of needs and priorities: CTVs making short and regular stops; cable layers in for complex operations; jack ups requiring precise berthing arrangements and expertise; SOVs keen for a quick turnaround on mob/demob operations. This takes expertise and smooth collaboration from all port departments channelled through the marine, operations and technical teams.
Contingency planning: Ineffective contingency planning can lead to costly mistakes and delays, and whilst it is difficult to prepare for every tiny eventuality, it is possible - at an early enough stage to make a difference – to make contingency plans for all projects. From a port perspective, this means using all our previous project experience to foresee challenges occurring due to complex operations, tight timescales or health and safety priorities.
High levels of transparency: All of my customer facing colleagues at Port of Blyth understand the value of transparency when supporting complex projects. They speak the same language as the technicians on the ground and recognise the importance of the part they play in the multi-team environment on the quay during mob/demob operations. They are open and honest in their assessment of progress or timescales and always prioritise HSQE over everything else. I know first-hand from speaking to clients how much they value this honesty and integrity, as well as crystal clear rates set out at the beginning of a project.
Collaborative working/innovative solutions: Services businesses often talk about being a client’s trusted partner, one who collaborates seamlessly – offering sensible solutions and spotting potential issues ahead of time. This is just what’s required on the quay during mob/demob activities or major projects. Clients need to know that their port partner is using all their experience to deliver innovative and intelligent services that are both proactive and reactive.
We – the Port, the region, the whole renewables sector - have come a long way from those very first days of the offshore wind industry. The tiny 2MW turbines first installed off Blyth in 2000 would be dwarfed by today’s turbines both in size and output, and yet they showed the potential that the industry had.
Port of Blyth is proud to have played a part in that story over 21 years and is already making plans for how it will be as impactful over the next two decades – starting with our own decarbonisation strategy that will see our first fully electric mobile crane, a £3m investment, unveiled over the coming weeks alongside many other improvements and investments. Like the innovative industry itself, the Port is not content to stand still but will instead continue to exceed our clients’ expectations.
Alasdair Kerr is speaking at RenewableUK's Ports & Vessels 2022 Conference on 31 March at the Bonus Arena in Hull. Register today to hear from him and our other world-class speakers: https://events.renewableuk.com/ports-vessels22-registration