North Star, the UK’s leading vessel infrastructure support operator, has successfully crewed up the first of its offshore wind fleet with 42 experienced seafarers, 60% of which have moved across from its existing North Sea workforce, transitioning core skills and company culture into the new vessel and its operations.
This completes the crew for the firm’s new hybrid-electric service operations vessel (SOV), the Grampian Tyne, alongside the catering specialist team from Aramark.
The new North Star ship is the first of four which will support ongoing operations and maintenance work at the Dogger Bank Wind Farm over the next decade for joint development partners Equinor, SSE Renewables and Vårgrønn. The new SOV was unveiled at its naming ceremony at Equinor’s O&M base at the Port of Tyne last Wednesday (7th June).
Several of the Grampian Tyne crew have undertaken the firm’s bespoke pathway training developed for experienced seafarers to gain the required workboat qualifications, to push industry best practice, alongside hands on experience on the firm’s fleet of hybrid-electric powered SOV workboats.
The company has also completed further investment in its Lowestoft workshop to enhance its quayside support with regular SOV and associated daughter craft maintenance. Katy Willis has joined the local team as tender manager to assist with further business growth, and Ben Gardner has been appointed as vessel manager to aid operations in Port of Tyne.
The 135-year-old business, which has been supporting the oil and gas sector for the past 40 years, has a workforce of around 1,300 crew and onshore personnel across its locations in Lowestoft, Newcastle and Aberdeen. The business has a fleet of 42 emergency support vessels providing uninterrupted around the clock, critical safety services to over 50 UK Continental Shelf installations every day of the year. It has never left a post unattended.
Based at North Star’s Lowestoft facility, chief operating officer Robert Catchpole said: “Our successful expansion into the offshore wind market has opened up many exciting new opportunities for existing crew members and has also allowed us to attract new talent into the business. Those transitioning across from our emergency response and rescue vessels have in some cases successfully upgraded their certification with our support to allow them to diversify into manning our offshore wind fleet of vessels in support of The Dogger Bank Wind Farm.
“Being able to leverage our existing fleet’s skill pool is a unique capability for North Star and it gives us a real edge in terms of the safety culture and standards onboard. When we complement this knowledge and seamanship with external experience, we find ourselves very well positioned for successful operations moving forward.
“We are also thrilled that we have a 2nd officer and 3rd engineer in the line-up who have progressed their careers within the business since joining as cadets.”
North Star runs the UK’s longest standing cadet programme and invests approximately £1m a year in training the next generation. The business has seen the number of females joining its programme increase in the last year and is fully committed to hiring more women as its fleet expands further.
Anna Przydatek, who has joined as one of the Grampian Tyne’s chief engineers, said: “It’s great to be part of the first crew operating North Star’s new offshore wind fleet. The SOV’s design takes comfort and operability to the next level with hotel-standard accommodation and great recreational facilities for the technicians and crew. It also uses an abundance of truly innovative systems which will result in substantial efficiencies for the project.”
North Star’s unique SOV design utilises a ground-breaking decision-support system concept which not only assists with bridging the most effective, efficient and safe operations and transfers at sea, it reports performance gains and transparency in metrics. Once all four ships are operational for Dogger Bank, the software will use collective learning to enable fast updates in operational excellence to the work front.
The SOVs are also built to side-load using a system with adjustable height transfer to enable efficient cargo movements straight to the on-board warehouse storage. They also boast medium-speed power generation which is upgradeable to methanol fuelling and supported with integrated batteries allowing efficient operations in DP mode with spinning reserve and peak shaving.
The vessel houses twin Voith Schneider electric VSP stern propulsion, which delivers rapid response manoeuvring and DP operations which complement North Star’s ESG aspirations with class leading, low fuel burn.
To support personnel transfers, the vessel has the option to utilise its walk-to-work gangway technology or the Grace Darling. North Star’s first SOV workboat brings hybrid-electric power to the renewables market for the first time. It is a high performance and efficient offshore logistics solution capable of transferring personnel in sea state up to 1.7mHs from a vessel that is launch and recovery capable.
Last month (May), North Star announced it is building up to four new construction service operation vessels (CSOVs) with VARD. The initial two will be delivered by Q2 in 2025 and will create approximately 200 further seafaring jobs once operational.