Factors That Contribute to Wind Farm Vessel Retrofitting Injuries
The implementation of renewable energy systems such as the Maryland Offshore Wind Project requires numerous support vessels to navigate waters surrounding wind farms. Other countries already have vessels needed to build and maintain wind farms, but the U.S. doesn’t have enough to meet the demands of proposed projects.
Unfortunately, shipbuilding and retrofitting injuries are likely to increase due to the following:
- Jones Act regulations. The Jones Act prevents foreign vessels from loading cargo and personnel in U.S. ports and transporting these to U.S. offshore wind farm construction sites. It also bars European installation vessels from participating in offshore wind construction in the U.S. and prevents wind farm operators from leasing available foreign-flagged transfer vessels.
- Pending legislation. The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022 is a proposal from the House of Representatives that could drastically affect energy projects on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. While the legislation offers many benefits to offshore workers, it also limits the manning of foreign vessels to U.S. citizens or citizens of the nation to which the vessel is registered. For example, a Japanese-flagged vessel could only work on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf if its crew wholly consisted of U.S. citizens or Japanese citizens.
- Immediate need. There are currently very few U.S.-flagged wind farm installation vessels available, leaving U.S. fleets no choice but to modify existing ships. While successful retrofitting is possible, the rush to complete them can lead to overlooked safety standards, sudden injury, or repetitive strain injuries.
- Inability to access industry standards. European markets have significant experience building offshore wind installations and have been able to streamline the installation process. American installers and shipbuilders may not have access to critical insights on installation methods and vessel-specific requirements, including a coordinated operation of different specialized vessel types at various project phases. With foreign expertise, retrofitted U.S. vessels could conform to existing operational parameters and critical components, such as dynamic positioning, jack-up legs, and heave compensation systems.
- Lack of resources. Europe’s aggressive renewable energy targets and investments by major utility companies have led to funding increases for wind farms in Northern Europe. Still, there are no comparable established systems in the U.S. Without similar investments, the U.S. market will be a generation behind foreign purpose-built turbine installation vessels.
The combination of high demand and operational difficulties in implementing wind farms creates a perfect storm of injury risks for maritime employees. Wind farm investors eager to keep projects on track may rush the installation and retrofitting efforts, causing construction injuries through exhaustion and human error. Pushing to complete projects on schedule can lead to injuries during the initial installation but also result in oversights that cause injuries down the line.
Let a Maritime Injury Lawyer Explain Your Options
If you have been hurt during the installation or service of an offshore wind vessel, the experienced maritime attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can protect your rights—and we don’t collect any payment unless we win your case. Call us at 800-362-9329 or learn more about your claim in our complimentary guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.