Recent Accidents Involving Offshore Wind Turbines
Collisions, allisions, and other deadly accidents have plagued Jones Act workers at every stage of wind farm operation. In April 2018, the offshore supply vessel Vos Stone attempted to feed a cable to a wind turbine under construction when it was given orders to head back due to an incoming storm. Moments after the ship cast off from the turbine, high winds and waves shoved the vessel back against the platform. Three crew members were injured, and the vessel had to return to the shipyard to repair hull damage.
Since then, major maritime incidents around wind farms have included:
- Crew transfer vessels. In April 2020, two crew members sustained minor injuries, and one was severely injured after the CTV Njord Forseti struck one of 78 wind turbines operated by Ørsted in the German North Sea. The allision with the turbine caused a two-foot crack in the bow, and the ship began taking on water. A rescue helicopter was called to fly the injured to nearby hospitals, and a rescue ship accompanied the vessel to the Netherlands.
- Jack-up vessels. An offshore installation service owned by Van Oord accidentally dropped three wind turbine blades and a blade clamping tool weighing over 3 tons into the sea in October 2021. The vessel Adventure was jacked up alongside a wind farm in the Irish Sea to conduct scheduled maintenance when a sudden mechanical failure caused three blades to collapse into the water.
- Cargo ships. The cargo ship Julietta D struck a nearby chemical tanker after breaking free of its anchor off the Dutch coast in February 2022. The collision tore a hole in the side of the Julietta D, and it began taking on water, requiring the evacuation of all 18 crew members by helicopter. After the ship was abandoned in heavy seas, it drifted into the newly-constructed foundations of a wind farm, striking one of two giant substation platforms where the electricity generated by the wind turbines is collected for transport to the mainland.
Could These Accidents Have Been Prevented?
Like most injuries at sea, these incidents were partially caused by the negligence of one or more parties. Maritime employees who are hurt in this way are owed their rightful injury compensation under the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), or general maritime law—and may even be able to sue the shipowner for the vessel’s unseaworthiness.
A closer inspection of each event revealed the likely root causes of the accidents, including:
- Human error. The investigation into the Vos Stone case found that the master decided to test an emergency control system just after casting off, starting a chain of events that resulted in the loss of control of the ship. While the first officer was able to regain control of the vessel, there was no time to prevent the allision.
- Lack of communication. Investigators concluded that the master of the Vos Stone took an unnecessary risk in testing the ship’s emergency control system at that moment. The bridge crew was also poorly managed. The incident report recommended that the ship’s standing orders be updated to specify who is in command during watch. The master must inform the watch officer of his intentions to improve internal communication between navigators on the bridge.
- Poor weather conditions. The Julietta D’s anchor could not hold up against the high winds and rough seas of Storm Corrie, which produced winds up to 75 MPH in the North Sea. No person can be held liable for the weather, but failure to stop work or return to port in stormy conditions puts crew members at risk.
- Training failure. Proper training is essential for the safe operation of a vessel. Crew members at every level should be aware of the procedures surrounding emergency systems, navigating between wind turbine towers, and the specific technology of the ship.
If you or someone you know has been hurt at sea, call us at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or fill out our online contact form to begin your no-obligation consultation or learn more about these types of claims in our complimentary guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.