Isle of Man warns offshore developers over shipping

Dong and Centrica have been warned by Isle of Man officials that a need to permanently divert ferry routes to Great Britain as a result of Irish Sea offshore wind farms would be “unacceptable”.

The threat comes as the two utility giants launch a series of local consultations regarding the 2.2GW Rhiannon project, the first to be carved out of their massive Round 3 Irish Sea zone.

Separately, Dong is also engaged in consultations for a proposed 750MW extension to its existing Walney project, also in the Irish Sea.

David Cretney, the Isle of Man’s infrastructure minister, has warned the utilities that as currently planned, their wind projects could significantly lengthen the ferry routes to Great Britain, which act as a lifeblood for the island’s 85,000 people.

A delegation from the Isle of Man authorities also recently met with UK officials involved in the planning process, where it raised concerns over the possible impact on shipping routes.

Approximately equidistant from Britain and Ireland in the middle of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is a self-governing dependency of the British Crown.

Future projects within the Irish Sea zone could add significant time to the nearly three-hour route to Liverpool in northwest England, while the Walney extension could affect routes heading to Heysham.

The Steam Packet Company, which claims to be the oldest continually operating passenger shipping firm in the world, says current plans for the Irish Sea zone would add 5,000 miles to its routes each year.

In an open letter to Centrica, Cretney argues that the Isle of Man is highly supportive of the emergence of offshore renewables in the Irish Sea and around the British Isles, and hopes to attract new skilled jobs as the industry matures.

However, “the additional journey times resulting from proposed offshore wind farm development would increase travel costs to and from the island, and would have a significant impact on our economy – damaging the competitiveness of existing island businesses when trading with the UK and the rest of Europe”, Cretney claims.

Centrica was awarded the Irish Sea zone in early 2010, and earlier this year Dong bought a 50% share, securing its first stake in a Round 3 project.

Centrica anticipates turning in a final planning application for Rhiannon sometime next year, with construction starting as soon as 2016. Cable landfall is expected at Anglesey, North Wales.