The latest Bondholders breakfast meeting, held at Grimsby Institute and University Centre Grimsby, turned the spotlight onto the Humber’s pivotal role servicing North Sea wind farms.
The burgeoning offshore wind industry is an opportunity for the Humber to reclaim its maritime heritage and create of legacy of new jobs and skills, Bondholders members heard.
Grimsby is now firmly established as an operations and maintenance base for the wind farms with DONG Energy choosing the town’s port as the location for a new £11m turbine operations and maintenance base.
Robert Sampson, DONG Energy’s Head of Operations for the Westermost Rough wind farm, which is 15 miles north of the mouth of the Humber, said Grimsby’s port infrastructure, available space, engineering-related skills and proximity to the North Sea wind farms made it an ideal location.
DONG Energy already employs 22 full-time staff in Grimsby, almost all of them local. Combined with DONG’s partners, up to 100 people will be employed when the new base becomes operational.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for growth in the local area,” Mr Sampson said. “DONG is here and we plan to be around for 25 years. We’re investing heavily and we plan to continue to invest in the area.”
Sam Whitaker, Vice Principal Strategic Projects for the Grimsby Institute Group, said the region was meeting the skills needs of a new industry through a range of initiatives, including the Humber Energy Campus, a consortium of five local Further Education Colleges.
“If ever there is a time to reclaim our maritime heritage it is now,” he said. “This is about making sure that the Humber becomes a global centre of excellence for the wind energy sector. The likes of DONG and Siemens and others have chosen this region to set up base. We can’t let them down.”
The opportunities for local employment were illustrated by staff from DONG Energy and RES Offshore who described their demanding, but rewarding, jobs working offshore. They included Mike Smith, from RES Offshore, who was the Humber’s first Offshore Wind Apprentice and is a former learner from the Grimsby Institute,
Gareth Russell, Business Development Manager, Humber, for Associated British Ports, and a Bondholders Board member, said the offshore wind industry had developed most rapidly in Denmark and Germany, but was now creating significant employment in the UK, especially in the Humber.
He said hundreds of people were already employed in offshore wind operations and maintenance roles in Grimsby, with 43 transfer vessels operating out of the port servicing over 100 operational wind turbines and a further 100 under construction.
“The same qualities that led Grimsby to become the world’s premier fishing port in the mid 1800s are now making it an attractive location for energy companies,” he said. “Grimsby is now firmly established as a centre of excellence for the servicing of offshore wind turbines.”
Bondholders Chair Peter Aarosin said: “After a long time of planning and talking about renewable energy, we are now seeing the fruits of all our work. We are starting to see jobs, and jobs with a long life, coming through, but we have really only just started.”
The Bondholders is a fast-growing, private-sector led group of companies and other organisations that act as ambassadors for the Humber to encourage investment and job creation. The Bondholders stage regular breakfast meetings themed around key issues and developments.
Mr Aarosin told the meeting the Bondholders network was growing rapidly. Having celebrated signing up Grimsby Institute and University Centre Grimsby as it 200th member in May, membership had now risen to 250, including DONG Energy.