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    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    Massive offshore wind vessel will not work in New London

    Charybdis, the country's first Jones Act compliant offshore wind turbine installation vessel, will not be used in New London as expected. (Submitted by Dominion Energy)
    Charybdis, the country's first Jones Act compliant offshore wind turbine installation vessel, will not be used in New London as expected. (Submitted by Dominion Energy)

    Charybdis, the 472-foot offshore wind turbine installation vessel contracted for work in New England waters, is not coming to New London after all.

    Dominion Energy, the company that constructed this first U.S.-built vessel of its kind, confirmed this week it had canceled a contract with Ørsted and Eversource, the partners that had planned to charter the vessel to support construction of both the Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind offshore wind projects. State Pier in New London is the staging area for both projects.

    Ørsted and Dominion both issued statements confirming the cancellation of the contract but did not detail the reasons. The construction of Charybdis was originally scheduled to be completed in late 2023, but the vessel was only launched into the water last month. Several components have yet to be installed.

    Dominion will use Charybdis to install turbines for the 2.6 gigawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project in the second half of 2025.

    “While we cannot speak for Ørsted’s reasons, overall cancellation of the lease further de-risks the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project ensuring the vessel is available when we need it,” Dominion spokesman Jeremy L. Slayton said in an email.

    For Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind, Ørsted and Eversource are likely to use smaller, domestic barges to ship the turbine parts to the wind farms, where they will be installed by foreign flagged ships. Ørsted, in a statement, only said it had secured an “alternative installation vessel.”

    The significance of the Charybdis is that it is the first ship compliant with the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, widely known as the Jones Act, a federal maritime law that regulates shipping in the U.S. The Jones Act requires that any cargo shipped from a U.S. port must sail on a ship built in the U.S.

    The Charybdis, which is 184 feet wide, has enough space to transport and install up to six wind turbines at a time.

    Tony Sheridan, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut who visited Denmark last year to tour wind component manufacturers, said he wondered if the Jones Act was hindering the nascent offshore wind industry in this country.

    Sheridan said it is a very different world than the post World War I era when the law was enacted and the rise of the offshore wind industry might be a good time to see what the value of the act is.

    “Is this act supportive or not of this industry we’ve got,” Sheridan said.

    Katharine Kollins, president of the North Carolina-based Southeasterm Wind Coalition, said she thinks the Jones Act is here to stay and protects investments in the U.S. shipbuilding industry. While it perhaps makes offshore wind turbine installation more complicated, Kollins said it also ensures the U.S. maintains the knowledge and experience in manufacturing these vessels.

    “My sense is the wind industry very much accepts the Jones Act ... which is why the Charybdis wind turbine installation vessel was built. It was delayed a couple of years. That’s the biggest problem,” she said.

    Dominon’s Slayton said he expects Charybdis to be vital not only to its Virginia project but also to the future growth of the offshore wind industry along the U.S. East Coast, “and is key to the continued development of a domestic supply chain by providing a homegrown solution for the installation of offshore wind turbines.”

    “We continue to see strong interest in use of the vessel after the CVOW project is complete,” Slayton said.

    g.smith@theday.com

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