The ‘Friedrich Ernestine’ on the skyline at Cammel Lairds

A new offshore wind farm installation vessel; the first of its kind in the UK; arrived a few weeks ago at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead to be prepared for work offshore of the North Wales coast.  The vessel, named Friedrich Ernestine, has been built and designed to install wind turbines across European offshore fields.

The vessel went into dry dock at the Cammell Laird Shipyard in Birkenhead for final fit out before undertaking further sea trials and then going onto the Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm more than eight miles off the north Wales coast in the Irish Sea.

The Friedrich Ernestine is a ‘jack-up’ vessel costing $126 million and is one of the largest of its kind at 100 metres long and 49 metres wide.  It has been designed and built in both South Korea and Europe.  It can transport and install foundations and towers and will work alongside the heavy-lift vessel, Stanislav Yudin.  The Gwynt y Môr wind farm is the largest offshore wind farm currently in construction in Europe and is due to be fully operational by the end of 2014.

The Friedrich Ernestine will be used to install wind turbine foundations, carrying three sets of components consisting of a monopile and transition piece on each trip in and out of its base harbour in Birkenhead.  At the offshore construction site, it turns into a jack-up rig, from which foundations and wind turbines can be installed.

Cammell Laird as well as being shipbuilders and repairers are now working at the forefront of the wind energy sector.  They have invested in facilities to support the assembly, storage and transporting of all the components required for the installation of a windfarm.

I managed to get some photographs of the Friedrich Ernestine from Monks Ferry and from the top of Holt Hill.  I was going to get a night time shot from the top of Conway Street near to the Queensway Tunnel with the powerful floodlights lighting the vessel whilst work carried on around the clock.  However, the vessel had left the dry dock yesterday ready for its sea trials.

There has been a lot of activity from Cammel Lairds and out onto the River Mersey.  The Viking Barge No 5 has been transporting wind turbine columns out to the wind farm.

The Irish Sea Pioneer is another giant lift boat which is now part of the work fleet in the Irish Sea.  It has a jacking system which raises and lowers four 240-ft. (73.2-m) legs to the sea floor and then raises the vessel to the desired working height.  It has been operating out of the Mersey.

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