Ribbon cutting for wind farm transport vessel

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 8:15am

WARREN — Construction of the first offshore wind support vessel in the nation is underway. The catamaran ferry will service Deepwater Wind’s five turbine wind farm off the coast of Block Island — also the first in the nation.

Officials celebrated the milestone with a ribbon cutting ceremony at Blount Boats Shipyard in Warren Wednesday morning. More than 200 people attended the event, including U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Jim Langevin, Rhode Island Commerce Corp. Secretary Stefan Pryor, and Blount Shipyard, Deepwater Wind and Rhode Island Fast Ferry officials. 

“We plan on being the most experienced wind farm support company in the United States once this boat is actually launched,” said Charles Donadio Jr., owner of Rhode Island Fast Ferry (RIFF) in Quonset. “We want this wind farm to be hugely successful, because everyone is watching us with a very close eye.”

The vessel is being constructed by Blount Boats, and will be operated by Donadio under a subsidiary of his company called Atlantic Wind Transfers. The vessel will provide crew and equipment support during construction of the Block Island wind farm beginning in the spring of 2016. Once construction is completed, the boat will be used to transport technicians to the wind farm. 

“This is a proud day,” Langevin said Wednesday. “Rhode Island, as we know, has a proud maritime history. We have a robust fishing industry and boat and shipbuilding. Very soon the wind farm off the coast of Block Island adds another dimension to our robust economy. At the same time, it’s also a showing of how we value our natural resources in Rhode Island.”

“This is such an exciting day, to be here today on such a beautiful – but more importantly windy day – to cut yet another ribbon,” Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said. “I want to celebrate the entrepreneurship of Blount Boats and Rhode Island Fast Ferry. This is not an easy thing to do. It’s not easy to be first.”

Donadio signed a contract with Deepwater Wind to service the wind farm for the next 20 years. Construction of the vessel is three months underway and slated to be operational in May 2016, Donadio said. The  69-foot vessel can transport 12 technicians under an L-license and 45-plus passengers under a T-Boat license classification. Donadio said in an interview he also hopes to provide tours of the wind farm once it is operational.

“The engines going in this boat are Tier 3 engines, the latest and greatest in green technology,” Donadio said. “The boat can go about 30-plus knots, depending on the load. It can carry about 15 tons of cargo.  There are two 10-foot containers where technicians can store their equipment, and the containers can be transferred off the vessel via crane onto the actual turbine platform.”

Donadio said the captains and crew aboard the vessel will be sent overseas to train with experienced wind farm support vessel operators. 

“This investment could transfer into tens of millions of dollars, which will grow long-term local jobs, good paying jobs for this economy,” Donadio said. “This is a great opportunity for our industry.”

RIFF will be providing photos of construction of the crew transfer vessels on a weekly basis at the company's Twitter page: @RIFastFerry.