Wind farm vessel christened

Will soon service B.I. Wind Farm
Fri, 04/29/2016 - 6:45am
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QUONSET POINT — “I christen thee Atlantic Pioneer,” said Atlantic Wind Transfers owner Charlie Donadio, Jr., on Friday, April 22, before breaking a bottle of champagne on the bow of his new vessel.

The vessel that Donadio christened is the first of its kind built in the United States, and will transport technicians and other personnel to the Deepwater Wind Block Island Wind Farm site for wind turbine construction activity. Donadio paid $4 million to construct the vessel and signed an agreement with offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind to service the wind farm for the next 20 years.

Donadio, who is also the owner of the Rhode Island Fast Ferry, held the christening ceremony at his Quonset Point docking facility. In attendance was Gov. Gina Raimondo, and several local and state officials, including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman David Cicilline, Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski, and a number of wind industry professionals.

“This is the first vessel of its kind built in the United States,” said Donadio during his speech. “It has the latest in green technology. Everything is the best that you can buy. No other ship builder has built a vessel like this. That's what makes it very unique.”

Gov. Raimondo said that christening the Atlantic Pioneer was a good way “to celebrate Earth Day, by recognizing the fact that we are pioneers — with the first of its kind vessel, right here in Rhode Island. As the governor, I am just bursting with pride that this is happening right in our backyard.”

The governor noted that a week ago, she “unveiled the green economy jobs report. The projection was that we were going to grow our green economy jobs by 17 percent last year,” she said. “Actually, we grew by 40 percent, creating over 4,000 jobs. That's what (Atlantic Wind Transfers), Deepwater Wind and Blount Boats are doing.”

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski called Donadio “incredibly persistent” and said that he “went out on a limb” and took risks in building the Atlantic Pioneer. “We're confident we're going to have 20 years of great service out of Charlie's company. It's a spectacular vessel.”

"The Atlantic Pioneer is a beauty," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

"This vessel is an example of Rhode Island innovation," said U.S. Rep. David Ciciliine.

“This is a proud day for Blount Boats,” said Marcia Blount, President of Blount Boats. “We take pride in every boat we build. But this boat is very special. It was built in Rhode Island for a Rhode Island operator, servicing a Rhode Island wind farm."

The South Boats (UK) designed aluminum vessel, constructed at the Blount Boats shipyard in Warren this past year, is “basically a 70-foot long, high speed catamaran,” said Donadio. “It can carry up to 16 technicians that it will transport on a daily basis to the wind farm, three miles off the coast of Block Island.”

Donadio said the Atlantic Pioneer “is a purpose-built vessel. It is specifically made to connect to the offshore” wind farm foundations. “The specially designed rubber bumper system on the bow comes from Denmark, and is designed to stick to a steel wind farm foundation.”

Once the vessel sticks to the foundation, “the technicians can safely transfer to the turbine and go up and down the ladder to work for the day,” explained Donadio, who noted that the boat is certified as an L-boat for transporting passengers and a T-boat to “tour (up to 47) passengers around the bay, or for smaller wind farm tours. So it's a cross-platform vessel.”

The vessel has two tier-3 MAN V12-1400CR main engines that can fill an Olympic sized swimming pool in under 10 seconds with a single thrust of its engines, can cruise at a sprint speed of 30 knots and a service speed of 24 to 25 knots. “It has shock absorbent seats, so it's a very comfortable ride,” said Donadio. “The vessel is built to keep the technicians comfortable.”

Donadio noted that he consulted with Ian Baylis, Managing Director of Seacat Services, whose company owns and operates crew transfer vessels, in constructing his customized vessel. Instead of using paint on the Atlantic Pioneer, Donadio utilized Orca Maritime’s anti-corrosion vinyl film to adorn the exterior of the vessel.

Donadio said that he had a dilemma in naming the vessel. His high-speed ferry that services the Quonset Point to Martha Vineyard route is named the Ava Pearl after his 9-year-old daughter Ava. He promised his 7-year-old daughter Julia that the next boat he built would be named after her. There was one problem: the wind farm vessel is much smaller than the Ava Pearl.

“We didn't want her to have this complex thing going on for the rest of her life,” said Donadio. “So we asked her if she wanted the crew transfer vessel named after her. She said, ‘No. I want the Block Island boat to be named after me.’”

Donadio is seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers to operate a fast ferry service from Quonset Point to Block Island's Old Harbor.

“When we hopefully get the license to operate a new high-speed service from Quonset Point to Block Island, and build that boat, it will be named the Julia Lee,” said Donadio.

Donadio said he came up with the name Atlantic Pioneer “over dinner and drinks with folks from the UK (United Kingdom)” who had been advising him about constructing the vessel. The name “Atlantic Pioneer fit perfectly for what we're doing. We're working in the Atlantic Ocean, and pioneering this new service” to a U.S. wind farm. “Everyone we talked to loved the name, and it just stuck.”

Donadio told The Block Island Times that the Atlantic Pioneer will be captained on a rotational basis by four captains: James Stasinos, Chris Anderson, Peter Staples and Block Island's own Jordan Ryan, who is the son of Bonnie and Gary Ryan.

Stasinos, who has been a Rhode Island Fast Ferry captain for two years, told The Times that, “It's exciting to be one of the first in the country to” captain a crew transfer vessel. “It's cool stuff,” he said.

Donadio said his captains have been practicing their runs out to the wind farm site. He noted that the challenging part for the captains has been to "hit something softly" in contacting the steel wind farm foundations, versus avoiding collisions with obstacles at sea.

“This opportunity is good for the company,” said Donadio. “We're always building something. If we didn't build this vessel somebody else would have. And, we plan on being the leaders in this market."

Donadio said building his business “has been slow and steady over the last 15 years. We've added the Atlantic Pioneer. We have three boats now (with the Ava Pearl and the Millennium). I think we actually qualify as a fleet. The next step is a boat to Block Island — a promise I made to my daughter. A high-speed ferry service from Quonset Point will be great for Block Island.”

According to Bryan Wilson, Deepwater Wind Project Manager, the Atlantic Pioneer successfully conducted its first crew transfer onto one of the steel foundations of the Block Island Wind Farm on Monday, April 25.