Unique boats coming to Block Island

Sat, 03/05/2016 - 7:15am

The lift-boat Robert, the large, unusual looking marine vessel that captured the attention of those who spotted it off of the Rhode Island coastline last fall won’t be the only oddly configured boat servicing construction of the Block Island Wind Farm. There will be a few unique, futuristic looking boats cruising in the waters off the coast of Block Island in the coming months.

Chief Technology Officer Joseph A. Orgeron, whose company Montco, Inc. owns the L/B Robert, told The Block Island Times that the company’s two other, smaller boats, called the Caitlin and the Paul, have been contracted by Deepwater Wind to service installation activity associated with the wind farm’s five wind turbine towers.

“About three months ago Deepwater Wind started talking to us” about using our lift-boats to assist with construction of the five wind turbine towers this coming summer, said Orgeron. “They were impressed with the Robert and what we had done” during installation of the five steel foundations in the fall of 2015.

The L/B Robert utilized a MENCK hydraulic hammer affixed to one of its four deck-mounted cranes to pile drive the five steel wind farm foundations into the seabed. Deepwater Wind officials acknowledge that the L/B Robert became somewhat of a savior when the company experienced challenges while utilizing a transport barge and Weeks crane amidst rough seas during the early stages of construction activity. 

Orgeron said the Caitlin was named after his 26-year old daughter, and the Paul was named after his sister’s 26-year old son. The Caitlin and the Paul are 235-class vessels, which are smaller versions of the 335-class L/B Robert and predate its design.

“These boats are a little bit smaller than the Robert,” said Orgeron. “They’re three-quarter the size of the Robert, and will work in a rotation process” to assist with construction of the wind farm. Orgeron noted that his vessels have been employed primarily for construction of offshore oil rig platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

While the 180-foot long, 500-ton L/B Robert, built in 2012, is equipped with 335-foot long legs and the ability to operate at a water depth of 280-feet, the two 235-class boats offer similar characteristics. Both the Caitlin and Paul, built in 2009, are 137-feet in length, equipped with 235-foot long legs and able to operate at a maximum working water depth of 180-feet. The depth of the water at the Block Island Wind Farm site is approximately 90 feet.

The Caitlin and Paul boast living quarters for a total of 42 passenger berths, a galley kitchen, and include sanitary and laundry facilities. Both boats are outfitted with three cranes, two caterpillar C9 engines and capable of cruising at an estimated speed of 6 knots. 

Due to the Jones Act, which imposes requirements on marine transportation and shipping, the Paul and the Caitlin are strictly designated for performing the act of delivering the wind turbine tower components, including the blades, nacelles and three-section towers, to the wind farm site. The two boats will be tasked with delivering one boatload of components to a larger lift-boat called the Fred. Olsen Windcarrier that will be responsible for aiding in erecting the wind turbine towers piece by piece.

According to the Fred. Olsen Windcarrier website, the Norway company’s specialist service vessels are built and operated for the safe delivery of goods and personnel to and from offshore wind farms. In contrast to Montco’s vessels, the Fred. Olsen Windcarrier, which has experience installing wind farm components overseas, primarily in the German North Sea, can cruise at a speed of 12 knots, contains four legs that are 301-feet long and can operate at a water depth of approximately 200-feet.

“The Caitlin will be transporting the blades, and top section of the towers,” explained Orgeron, “while the Paul will carry the heaviest base section and two tower components. They will be making one trip out with their cargo from the Port of Providence.”

Orgeron said the Caitlin and Paul “are working in the Gulf of Mexico right now. They will be coming up (to the Port of Providence) around the middle to the end of July” as dictated by Deepwater Wind’s construction schedule.

Deepwater Wind officials have said that the wind turbine towers would be completed by the end of the summer, and the wind farm will be operational in the fall of 2016.