Investment shows faith in the wind industry
15:34 25 October 2012
The founder of Norfolk crew vessel business Tidal Transit has announced a further £1.5m investment in a new boat in a sign of confidence in the wind energy industry, but warned of the difficulties of raising finance.
Leo Hambro, who set up the Docking-based business last year, has just placed an order for the manufacture of the Tia Elizabeth, which will be the third in a potential fleet of 10 boats.
The company is on target to turn over more than £1m in the second year of trading after seeing continuing demand for the boats from the operators of wind farms.
The company now employs 14 staff and eight sub-contractors, including an apprentice from the College of West Anglia.
Mr Hambro’s first boat, the Ginny Louise is currently working for utility firm SSE to provide crew transfer services in the Greater Gabbard wind farm development. The contract was recently extended to March 2013.
The second boat to be built, the Eden Rose, will transfer crew to the Sheringham Shoal wind farm until the end of November.
Mr Hambro met his business partner Norfolk Fishing Trips founder Adam Wright in November 2010.
They raised £2.3m of equity finance through private investors and said going forward they were looking at various opportunities for finance.
Mr Hambro, who is a member of the EDP Future 50, said: “The fact of the matter is that these boats have proven themselves to be very capable in the summer weather conditions. In the worst days when all the boats were stuck in the port, we were out working.”
He hopes to have a fleet of 10 transfer vessels by the end of 2015, but said raising finance was difficult because of the nature of the contracts in the industry.
He said: “Debt financing is particularly difficult in this sector. It is one of the reasons why companies who would like to benefit from this sector are unable to get into it.
“When we did our deal with the boatyard back in March last year, we put in an order for two vessels with further option for eight. At the time we thought raising finance would be easier than it has been.
“There is limited marine finance available,” he added.
He said utilities were not chartering the crew transfer vessels on long contracts, which made it hard to secure funds from the bank.
He said: “Our holy grail going forward is long term contracts because then we can go forward and build more vessels.
“Because we have proved ourselves as a company, and proved the quality of our vessels, we are well placed to get longer term contracts than we have had so far.”
Mr Hambro said the company was ready for the next wave of wind farm construction –Round Three – which will be further off the shore.
He said: “These other turbines are going to be in the water for 25 years. There is going to be a 25 year period for operations and maintenance.”