Local start-up aims to expand its offshore wind business in New Jersey, Maryland
NEW LONDON – Sea Services North America has started hiring fishermen to provide maritime services and safe navigation for offshore wind projects, including Ørsted and Eversource joint ventures in the northeast.
“Our mission is to increase the safety of fishermen, provide opportunities for fishermen, while providing scouts and safety vessels to offshore developers,” said Gordon Videll, CEO and co-founder of Sea Services North America, based in Waterford.
The company’s collaboration with Ørsted and Eversource brings together fishermen from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York to provide monitoring services and support vessels during the construction of offshore wind farms.
The deal marks the first time that an offshore wind developer and a commercial fishing consortium have signed a “substantial commercial contract in the history of US offshore wind,” according to a statement from Ørsted and Eversource on May 19.
Ørsted and Eversource are developing the 704 megawatt Revolution Wind project for electricity in Connecticut and Rhode Island, the 132 megawatt South Fork Wind for Long Island, and the 924 megawatt Sunrise Wind project for New York.
Fishermen working for Sea Services provided surveillance services and reconnaissance vessels that helped Revolution Wind research vessels identify fishing gear during pre-construction marine surveys, the Ørsted and Eversource statement said. .
Videll, who co-founded the company with Michael Thieler, director of operations, and Gary Yerman, director of fleet, said Sea Services has a “stable” of boats that have signed up and the company is currently reviewing more fishermen.
“We are looking for people who are committed to increasing safety, providing quality service and participating in the offshore conversation,” he said. “It provides additional income for fishermen, so that there is a stable job, which will stabilize their lives and give them greater opportunities.”
He said the focus was on increasing the safety of fishermen and diversifying their skills to support offshore energy developers.
“What we are finding is that our most profitable boats are safer boats, and by occupying them they can become the safest boats on the water.”
Thieler, who has been a commercial fisherman for 33 years, said the coexistence between the fishing industry and wind power is a key part of the conversation when interviewing potential fishermen.
“It’s being able to work together. We are not trying to polarize fishermen. We are looking for fishermen who will coexist and work with developers and wind farms.
The first step, said Thieler, is to bring the fishing vessel up to international standards and provide higher training standards with the aim of raising safety standards throughout the industry.
He said Ørsted had committed resources to improve training programs for captains and crew and equipment, including life-saving appliances, or LSA, and survival equipment. The cost of equipment upgrades is shared between Ørsted and the fishing owner.
“We have international standards that we are trying to achieve and it is not easy to do. Not all crews, all boats, all owners will want to do this, ”said Theiler. “It takes a certain commitment to prepare a boat and train the crews. It is a certain amount of energy, time and money resources. ”
The idea is to hire a fishing boat during the offseason, Theiler said. The lobster is active in the summer, leaving the boat available in the winter. Trawlers or trawlers are more productive in winter and might be available in summer.
“We don’t want anyone to stop fishing. We’re just trying to get them to diversify a bit so that they don’t depend on just one source of income, ”Theiler said.
Thieler said that a profitable boat is a safe boat because the owner has the money to do maintenance, buy new equipment and electronics, and spend time in the shipyard. Boats that are unprofitable don’t send their crews for training and don’t spend money at the shipyard every year.
“We hope this will provide a secondary source of income for the boats and perhaps allow them to improve their certifications and training.”
The knowledge of experienced fishermen and their professional seamanship skills are invaluable in helping local marine projects, he said.
“No one knows the waters better than we do. No one spends more time on the water than commercial fishermen. The model has been proven in Europe and we use the same model. “
Theiler said he could not disclose the financial compensation fishermen receive when working for Sea Services.
In the federal Decision record for Vineyard Wind I by the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management, the Army Corps of Engineers said navigational difficulties could cause fishermen to stop working on commercial fishing areas below the turbines, which will be spaced one nautical mile apart in an east-west grid.
“Although Vineyard Wind is not authorized to prevent open access to the entire wind development area, due to the location of the turbines, it is likely that the entire 75,614 acre area will be abandoned by fishing. commercial due to navigation difficulties. The magnitude of the impact on commercial fisheries and loss of economic income is estimated at $ 14 million over the projected 30-year life of the project. “
Videll told CT Examiner that the statement was dishonest and that navigation between the turbines would not be a problem.
“I was on the phone last week with a fisherman who was fishing in the middle of a wind farm in Europe where the turbines are spaced half the distance they are going to be here,” Videll said. “Just to put that in perspective, from my house I can look out the window any day and see across the Thames, which is 0.7 miles away. I see boats go by, I see ferries go by, I see submarines in the middle of the river and pleasure craft. So it’s a red herring that suggests you can’t sail a mile apart. “
According to him, Ørsted has created a simulator in Rhode Island that allows fishermen to know the exact proposed spacing.
“All the fishermen I have been there with have done it without a problem,” he said.
More wind farms
Videll said Sea Services is negotiating with offshore wind developers along the East Coast and working to expand its fleet to New Jersey and possibly Maryland.
Ørsted has also started conversations with Sea Services about its Ocean Wind and Skipjack wind farms, serving New Jersey and Maryland respectively, the statement said.
Kenneth Bowes, Vice President of Siting and Licensing at Eversource, said the collaboration with Sea Services North America reflects Eversource’s commitment to engage local partners, including commercial fishermen, throughout the cycle. company projects.
David Hardy, CEO of Ørsted Offshore North America, said in the statement that he believes offshore wind can coexist with all users of the ocean, including the region’s commercial and recreational fishing fleets.
“Our expanded collaboration with Sea Services will help us in our efforts to achieve this coexistence, with the invaluable support of the fishermen who know the waters of the region best.”
Thieler said that when he traveled to Kilkeel, Northern Ireland a few years ago with Videll and Yerman, they saw a town that could be a model for New London, showing how to increase economic development by engaging fishermen in offshore wind.
“It was a fishing town that had seen tough times,” Thieler said. “On one side of the harbor, the boats were painted in bright colors and fitted with high-tech equipment. Across the harbor there were rusty, tired boats.
Thieler said his group immediately asked what was different from the nicer, well-maintained boats and what happened to the older boats.
“The answer was, ‘These are the guys who fish and then act as safety vessels for the wind farms. On the other side, there are guys who just fish.
Videll said the experience and knowledge of fishermen is invaluable in the development and construction of offshore wind farms.
“We need the indigenous knowledge of the fishermen. These developers could have gone for work boats that are not fishermen, but they would lose the hundreds of years of knowledge that these fishermen have.