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Southampton-based marine & transport business, Williams Shipping, have started working on a contract to transport 82m offshore wind turbine blades for wind energy specialists MHI Vestas.

Turbine production in the UK MHI Vestas is a joint venture between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Vestas Wind Systems. Their V164 offshore wind turbines are amongst the world’s most powerful, with a nameplate capacity of up to 9.5 megawatts. Blades have been manufactured at their facility on the Isle of Wight since 2015, with serial production commencing in 2017. The facility is expected to produce around 150 blades per year.

In 2017 MHI Vestas announced plans to re-purpose part of a decommissioned power plant near Southampton into a state-of-the-art painting and logistics facility for the blades.

Handling oversized loads Moving and handling these immense items presents some unique challenges. At 82m long the blades cannot be transported by road and are instead transported by barge: from the Isle of Wight, to the painting facility, and then on to international docks for shipping overseas.

To carry out this task, a special design of blade transport barge was created. Self-powered, this 76m barge is designed to work in the shallow waters around the Solent, with an unloaded draught of 0.65m and a loaded draft of just 0.75m.

As well as managing operation of the vessel, Williams will also be managing the stevedoring with cranes installed at local sites on the Isle of Wight, Fawley and Portsmouth Docks.

Williams Shipping and Seawork Williams Shipping is a marine and logistics company which has been based in Southampton for over 120 years. Its marine services include charter of vessels and barges, towage and port services.

Philip Williams, Director of Marine at Williams Shipping commented: "We’re really pleased to get started on this contract. We have spent some time getting all the equipment and people set up and the arrival of the blade barges was the final stage. MHI Vestas’ ongoing investment has been great for the area and we are glad we can play a part in building the wind energy industry on the south coast."

Vestas V164 turbines are used in a number of offshore wind farms around the world including Burbo Bank, off the coast of Liverpool. The blade running contract runs for two years initially, but is expected to be ongoing.

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