Shipping firms frustrated by offshore wind farms

The Chamber of Shipping has criticised plans to build an offshore wind farm in the path of a ferry route to the Isle of Man.

The West of Duddon offshore wind farm will provide 500MW of electricity, enough to nearly double Britain’s existing offshore electricity-generating capability. Around 370,000 homes will be powered by the wind farm.

Edmund Brooks, the Chamber of Shipping’s deputy director general, told the government’s approval for offshore wind projects was problematic for shipping firms.

“To use the famous analogy, you wouldn’t put a wind farm in the middle of the M1, would you?” he said.

“The ships will have to divert 24/7, 365 days of the year – whether the wind turbines are turning or not.”

Both the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s route and the bad-weather route for ferries to Northern Ireland are affected by the decision, which will force them to permanently divert around the wind farm.

Shipping firms will receive compensation but Mr Brooks is also concerned by the navigational safety implications of the wind farms’ development around Britain’s coast.

“If a ship should suffer a blackout and start to drift, if it can’t drop its anchor, there are safety issues,” he warned.

Mr Brooks fears plans to dramatically increase offshore windpower will increase the risk as the numbers of wind turbines grows bigger.

“We’re looking at massive areas offshore,” he added.

A spokesperson for the British Wind Energy Association said any concerns about navigational safety should be “minimal” because of the rigorous nature of the planning process.

“By the time the application has finalised its journey through the planning process it has been looked at from all sides,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any danger to shipping.”

The spokesperson said the benefits of rolling out the offshore wind programme made the planning decision compelling “purely because the benefits of having an offshore electricity supply are so great”.

He added: “There are shipping interests or fishing interests, but the benefits of rolling out this offshore wind programme [are such] that we really need to try and balance all the interests when we make the decisions.”