North Star, which owns and operates the largest wholly UK-owned fleet, is powering up its growth in the offshore wind sector with new appointments and new vessels.

Founded in 1886 and originally established to assist the fisheries industry, North Star is a UK market-leading provider of mission-critical, infrastructure support services in the North Sea.

With bases in Lowestoft, Aberdeen, Newcastle and Hamburg, the company employs 1,300 crew and onshore personnel and has been supporting the energy sector since the 1970s.

To support its transition to offshore wind, North Star is delivering a new fleet of hybrid-electric service operation vessels (SOVs) and commissioning service operation vessels (CSOVs) to meet the evolving demand of operations and maintenance (O&M) teams working for long periods at sea.

The first two of these vessels – Grampian Tyne and Grampian Derwent – have been employed by Equinor for long-term O&M charters at the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, with another four vessels currently under construction, including two extra for that project alone.

North Star is aiming to add 40 walk-to-work (W2W) vessels to its overall fleet by 2040, as it looks to foster a smooth transition to green energy, both for its clients and its workforce.

Eastern Daily Press: The Grampian DerwentThe Grampian Derwent (Image: North Star)
“It’s an ambitious goal, but I think it’s an achievable goal with how we’re driving innovation and being at the forefront,” said Caspar Blum, appointed as North Star’s European renewables lead in July 2023.

“The company has been trading for 135 years, and it’s provided premium services within oil and gas for over 50 years,” added James Bradford, who joined North Star as chief technology officer (CTO) in April 2023.

“It’s been best in class in that area, and demonstrated its capabilities year on year, and our aspiration is to be best in class and the go-to company in the renewable energy market.

“We have made an outstanding start to servicing offshore wind that’s been backed up by very positive feedback on the company and the assets that we’ve put in place.”

The appointments of Caspar and James are a key part of North Star’s growth strategy. In his newly created role of European renewables lead, Caspar is responsible for growing the company’s renewables business across continental Europe.

Based in Hamburg, Caspar has more than a decade’s experience in the offshore sector. He was already aware of North Star’s growth ambitions prior to joining the company.

“I liked the drive to diversify from a typical oil and gas vessel operator into a renewables business,” he said. “Everyone wants to go the extra mile and drive this change within the business. I don’t feel that anyone is left behind.”

Eastern Daily Press: Caspar Blum, European renewables leadCaspar Blum, European renewables lead (Image: North Star)
James joined North Star from global shipping operator V.Group, which manages between 600 and 700 vessels worldwide.

His primary role at North Star is to oversee the construction of its new fleet of SOVs and CSOVs. He is also supporting the firm’s “decarbonisation journey”, with an aim to move from hydrocarbon to zero-carbon fuels.

Having witnessed V.Group’s efforts to decarbonise its fleet of deep-sea vessels, James was impressed at North Star’s progress when initially interviewing for the CTO role.

“When I got talking to North Star, I was amazed how far ahead they were considering that many, if not all, offshore vessels are exempt from the decarbonisation rules at this moment in time,” he said. “That’s going to change, and we’re aware of that, but they’d already taken that leap into the future.”

Digital transformation is another core component of North Star’s future, most notably a move from legacy management practices to data-driven decision making.

“This will bring about not only operational efficiencies but also organisational learning that will allow us to evolve into a smarter organisation,” said James.

“Repeating the maxim, ‘if we don’t measure, we cannot evolve’, the appropriate use of data is taking North Star to the next level and keeping us ahead of our competitors.”

Eastern Daily Press: James Bradford, chief technology officerJames Bradford, chief technology officer (Image: North Star)
A commitment to learning and development isn’t new to North Star; the firm runs the UK’s longest-standing cadet programme, investing approximately £1m a year training future talent.

A recent success story saw graduated cadet Victoria Diamond appointed as North Star’s first female assistant superintendent – aligning with the company’s diversity and inclusion goals.

North Star has now implemented a retraining programme tailored to offshore wind. Delivered in collaboration with industry bodies, the targeted training rapidly equips its existing crews with the skills needed for a seamless transition to the sector.

As a result, 60% of the 84 seafarers selected to crew the first two new SOVs have moved across from North Star’s existing North Sea workforce.

“You need an organisation that can flex with change, and I sincerely believe that North Star has that ability to adjust and maintain service levels regardless of what comes our way,” said James.

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