MAC is a believer in the Everest Paradigm in accident prediction: Just as Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing conquered Everest because it was there, accident happen because they can. Although there has yet to be a major incident involving offshore wind turbines or wave energy device, it will happen one day, which makes a recent risk alert by Steamship Mutual rather timely.
MAC is certainly not being crisis-mongering. Det Norske Veritas warns: “Placing wind farms at sea close to busy shipping lanes are inherently risky. It is crucial that these risks are identified and mitigated to prevent serious accidents and their subsequent impacts.
“A collision between a ship and a wind turbine could result in production loss from a single turbine or the entire wind farm if the transformer module is damaged. In serious cases, a collision may result in loss of life and oil spills.
“As only a limited number of offshore wind farms have been built so far, there are no international published rules for ship navigation close to the installations. However, offshore wind farms can be treated as offshore platforms with respect to surrounding ship traffic.”
The UK’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency has issued a Maritime Guidance note on the issue, which can read here.
Britain’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch has expressed the concern: “With the rapid growth in the offshore wind industry, there is concern that its safety culture may not be as mature as, for example, the offshore oil and gas industry.”
Indeed, following the MAIB investigation into the Harald/Octopus grounding in poorly charted waters during the carrying of an experimental wave energy device, the British Wind Energy Association, BWEA, was not only the sole organisation to reject a MAIB recommendation regarding that particular incident but the only one to reject any MAIB recommendation that year, 2007.
Such a rejection would seem to reinforce MAIB’s fears regarding safety culture in the alternative energy incident.