May 25 2013 Latest news:
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Fishermen, energy company executives and education providers came together in Great Yarmouth to look at the jobs potential of the burgeoning offshore wind energy industry.
The first of what is hoped will become a biannual conference was held at the Furzedown Hotel symbolically in sight of Scroby Sands offshore windfarm last week.
However, the attention of the 120 delegates was firmly focused on the skills that will be needed to develop the country’s third round of giant offshore windfarms, including the East Anglian Array to be built off the Suffolk coast.
The UK and Ireland Vessel Co-operative Conference was organised by Richard Brookin who found national fame several years ago as the last full time professional fisherman in Yarmouth.
Quitting in the face of what he describes as “increasingly impossible regulation in the industry”, he last year set up the cooperative through a new company, Offshore Marine Services, to provide the offshore wind industry with a portfolio of vessels.
More than 30 fishermen from across the country have since signed up, including Jimmy Buchan who starred in the popular BBC show Trawlermen.
Mr Brookin, was delighted by the response to the conference which was organised at short notice.
He said: “All the major players are here, including representatives of such energy companies as Siemens and Vattenfall. Interest was so overwhelming that the venue was at its full capacity of 120 within 12 days of announcing the conference.”
Other delegates included representatives of EastPort UK, Lowestoft College and Yarmouth Jobcentre.
Presentations held through the day covered everything from health and safety requirements of working offshore to the types of vessels and skills that will be needed on the new projects.
Mr Buchan has been in the fishing industry for 37 years but is now seeking to diversify and said it was possible his Peterhead-based trawler The Amity could be used as a guard ship on projects such as the East Anglian Array.
He said: “It is not possible to be a full-time fisherman any more. The regulations limit time at sea to between 95 and 130 days. It is like Tesco closing half the time and trying to stay profitable.
“My trawler had a £750,000 rebuild last year and I have got to service my bank loan as well as pay my crew.”
He believes the potential of offshore wind is “absolutely huge” and it was likely local people would be employed to crew the boats because of their local knowledge.
Ferlin Quantrill, head of engineering at Lowestoft College, also sees the industry becoming an importance source of jobs, especially the ongoing maintenance of turbines, alongside the traditional oil and gas sector.
He said: “We have 183 engineering apprentices at the moment and that number is going up all the time.
“Companies are coming and saying ‘help us now rather’ than waiting for courses to start in September.”
The following day a group met with the Caister lifeboat crew.
Jimmy Buchan said: “I met some fantastic characters young and old and was left inspired that a local community can achieve so much to save the lives of others.”
Norfolk turkey giant Bernard Matthews is in talks to sell a stake in the business.