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Offshore Renewable Energy & Maritime transport

Maritime transport is a sector of crucial importance to the efficient running of international trade and the global economy. In terms of infrastructure, maritime transport not only requires seagoing vessels, but also ports as central logistics hubs, rendering the sector complex and intimately connected to land-based infrastructure. This sector strongly depends on safe and reliable conditions of operation. The different types of Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) technology often rely on fixed installations to operate (such as offshore wind farms, wave and tidal-powered facilities, etc.). Such installations will be referred to as OREI (Offshore Renewable Energy Installations) in the following pages. OREI and maritime transport rely on a shared maritime space to operate, which can create incompatibilities as both sectors must agree on the spatialization of their activity (maritime routes and localisation of OREIs) to avoid collisions and accidents.

This fiche sets out the range of interactions to be considered between maritime transport and MRE and what MSP can do to avoid and mitigate possible negative interactions. 

Related challenges

The interactions between MRE and maritime transport can occur at different phases: design and construction phase, operating phase, or decommissioning phase of the OREI. Direct competition and potentially dangerous interactions can arise as both sectors compete for space by using similar areas. Therefore, the primary concern is linked to safety (of goods, people and the environment).

The challenges between the 2 sectors can be divided into two broad categories: 

Risk of collision

The increased amount of installed OREI automatically increases the potential risk of collision. Such accidents can result from the collision between vessels and OREI, but also between vessels themselves through the creation of choke points (points of congestion between two navigable channels). Additionally, O&M (operation and maintenance) vessels might also pose a risk and be at risk themselves while crossing major shipping routes when going to an OWF. Maritime accidents can lead to large financial losses for all parties involved. In the worst-case scenario, such accidents can lead to human casualties or serious environmental damage. This raises the question of the distance between OREI (and especially OWF) and busy maritime routes, and the possibility of enforcing a safety zone with a minimal safe distance to be respected while navigating around OREI. 

Diversion (change of route)

The presence of OREI such as OWF may lead to additional costs for the maritime industry if vessels must divert to a longer route to avoid them. Diversions can be a major problem for the shipping sector: Increased time of travel and fuel spent, (and consequently more greenhouse gas emissions), financial penalties in case of delays, higher insurance costs due to potentially riskier routes, etc. In case of short sea shipping, longer transit times may also make short sea services unable to compete with land-based transport services. This issue is particularly relevant when it comes to port entrances and access lanes, that are busier and need to be clear of any obstruction to avoid hazardous manoeuvres. 

Related enablers


DISCLAIMER: This page is based on the previous existing section “MSP Sectors and Conflicts” presented on the European MSP Platform, and where you can find the related fiche here.

Other references: 








Existing co-existence and multi-use initiatives