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Roro vessels take lifting – and cost – out of turbine transportation

Tue 05 Sep 2017

Roro vessels take lifting – and cost – out of turbine transportation
Rotra Vente is the first of two ro-ro vessels designed to transport nacelles, towers and blades for Siemens

Two new roro vessels chartered to Siemens Wind Power are playing an important part helping the company to reduce costs

Until recently an industry that relied on subsidies, offshore wind energy has experienced a massive reduction in costs in the last two to three years.

Much of this reduction in costs is accounted for by the development and introduction into service of a new generation of much larger offshore wind turbines by companies such as Siemens Wind Power, but the new larger turbines are not easy to transport, forcing companies such as Siemens to look at new logistics concepts.

Due to enter operation this summer, Siemens’ new nacelle assembly facility in Cuxhaven, Germany, is the latest in a number of investments that the turbine builder has made in offshore wind that also include its new blade-manufacturing facility in the northeast of England.

“We are working all the time on cost strategy targets,” said Michael Hannibal, CEO offshore at Siemens Wind Power. “We have steadily reduced production costs year by year. The whole industry is engaged in a massive cost-reduction effort, whether you are talking about developers or operations and maintenance. It is equally important that, as an OEM, we take waste out of the industry and reduce overall costs in the process.”

In due course, Cuxhaven will become the hub for nacelles for Siemens’ offerings in the wind industry, at which the company will concentrate manufacturing of nacelles. “We have three facilities building nacelles for direct drive offshore wind turbines,” Mr Hannibal said. “In the future, we will have one purpose-built facility doing what three were doing.” Offshore turbines are getting bigger and bigger, he notes, and to build, store and then transport them cost-effectively, ever-greater focus is required on how that it is achieved.

The new production facility at Cuxhaven is part of the solution and allows heavy components to be loaded directly on vessels, avoiding the need for expensive ground transportation. Another part of the solution is Rotra Vente, the first of a pair of vessels that were designed to cost-effectively transport nacelles and other components used in Siemens’ large, direct drive turbines.

“With Rotra Vente, we are stepping into a new era of cost-efficient offshore wind logistics,” said Mr Hannibal. “When our new factories in Hull in the UK and Cuxhaven are fully operational and both roro vessels are in service, we expect savings of 15–20% in our logistics costs compared to current transport procedures.”

Siemens Wind Power took delivery of Rotra Vente in November 2016. A second vessel, Rotra Mare, followed in the spring of 2017, and with these dedicated assets in service, Siemens is effectively operating its own North Sea shuttle service, shipping components for offshore wind turbines between its factories and the ports handling and loading installation vessels.

The vessels were purpose-designed and built by Holland Shipyards for the restrictions and challenges associated with the ports Siemens uses but, more importantly, were designed and built to handle heavy offshore wind turbine modules, each separately weighing up to 400 tonnes, in as efficient a manner as possible.

The roro concept provides safe and effective handling, rolling components on and off the vessels and to and from loading quays at the ports involved, eliminating the need for heavy-lifting operations and large cranes and lifting equipment.

Following a year-long tendering and negotiation process, Siemens Wind Power signed a contract for the delivery of the vessels with deugro Danmark in September 2015. With both vessels in service, Siemens can safely handle thousands of heavy turbine modules. Over the next three years, it needs to deliver more than 800 wind turbines to sites around the North Sea.

At 141 m long, Rotra Vente can carry multiple 8 megawatt nacelles. The vessel can also transport up to nine tower sections per trip or three to four sets of rotor blades, depending on what else is being transported. Rotra Mare is nearly identical to Rotra Vente but is configured to transport towers and blades rather than nacelles and can accommodate up to 12 wind rotor blades.

“We are proud to operate Rotra Vente for Siemens. This vessel marks a new milestone in the close co-operation we have maintained for years,” said Richard Thomsen, managing director of deugro, the project freight-forwarding division of the deugro Group.

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