UK Chamber welcomes decision to uphold navigational safety

offshore windfarm construction

The UK Chamber of Shipping has welcomed the decision by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to refuse the development consent of Vattenfall’s application to extend Thanet Offshore Wind Farm on the grounds of navigational safety.

The UK Chamber fully supports the Government’s targets for offshore renewable energy, and strongly welcomed the Offshore Wind Sector Deal in March 2019. The UK’s ports and its shipping industry play a vital role in enabling these targets to be met through the provision of bases and vessels for construction, operation & maintenance, and decommissioning.

The UK Chamber also represents vessel operators who have the capability to carry out marine and offshore construction services for the various stages of offshore wind farm developments. However, maintaining and upholding navigational safety for marine users must be the top priority for all concerned.

Commenting on the decision Robert Merrylees, UK Chamber of Shipping Policy Manager said:

“We are pleased that the Business Secretary has taken the decision to prioritise the safety of vessels and their crew. We fully support the offshore wind sector and the jobs it provides for shipping and maritime companies, as well as the environmental benefits it brings. We recently called for a Green Industrial Revolution and want the UK to position itself as a leader in green technology.

“But these offshore windfarms must consider a range of factors and this development did not sufficiently address the impact on the safety of vessels and the effects on ports. This is an important decision which we warmly welcome and demonstrates the government’s commitment to ensuring ships and their crew can travel safely across our seas.”

Application rejected:

In a letter from the Business Secretary it was outlined that the refusal was brought on two separate grounds

1.    The proposals failure to demonstrate sufficient mitigation of risk to the safety of navigation to make them within the As Low As Reasonably Practicable (“ALARP”) range.

2.   The failure to address the major effects on major ports including some that are National Significant Infrastructure Ports and the prospective development of future Ports, most particularly in the Thames estuary.

The Secretary of State considered at length the question of the planning balance under section 104(7) of the Planning Act 2008 i.e. whether the strategic benefits of the proposed Development would outweigh the negative effects and concluded that it was not so - the adverse impact of the proposed development would outweigh its benefits.

The decision states that principal concerns raised in submissions throughout the examination from bodies with statutory duties to deliver and maintain a safe and efficient maritime environment, port authorities and the operators of shipping and pilotage services were not sufficiently addressed.  

The Examining Authority placed considerable weight upon the body of expertise and experience of mariners active in these waters and the expert opinion of the MCA as the navigational regulator.

Reaction from the Chamber:

Robert Merrylees, Policy Manager at the UK Chamber of Shipping gave further reaction:

“The Chamber has continually supported the PINS process, through provision of expertise, the views of its members, and wider navigational concerns and thanks the Examining Authority for their recognition of such. The Chamber maintained that mitigation measures and solutions weren’t sufficient to allow Thanet Extension and navigation uses of the sea to safely co-exist.

“The Chamber invites and welcomes all wind farm developers to contact and consult with it early in the planning process to be able to fully scope and factor in navigational considerations.

“Whilst the Chamber welcomed the concept of Vattenfall’s proposed introduction of a Structures Exclusion Zone (“SEZ”) to reduce the area of the sea where infrastructure could be located, the Chamber felt the SEZ proposed was not of sufficient scale to ensure sufficiency of safe sea room, with the Examining Authority concluding that safety for general navigation as well as manoeuvring to transfer pilots would be reduced critically.

“We also want The Crown Estate to do further investigatory work and practical assessment of the Round Four Sites and reassess the navigational safety constraints of some of the proposed Round Three Extensions. Failure of comprehensive marine spatial planning to ensure ability for safe co-existence between navigational stakeholders and offshore wind farms leads to unnecessary discord and significant unnecessary expenditure of time and resource. Early engagement is paramount.”

For more information contact:

Robert Merrylees

Policy Manager

020 7417 2843 / 07425 863719

rmerrylees@ukchamberofshipping.com