The first US-based offshore wind service operations vessel (SOV) to be compatible with the Jones Act has been approved in principle by classification body ABS.

The SOV, being developed by Canada-headquartered naval architects and marine engineering company Vard Marine, is designed to provide personnel accommodation, transfer technicians to offshore turbines, as well as storing spare parts and tools for US offshore wind farms.

The vesel is set to be the first SOV that meets the conditions of the Jones Act, formally known as the US Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which requires all goods transported between US ports to be carried on US-flagged ships and crewed by US residents— a law that prevents existing European vessels, which have carried out the vast majority of existing non-Chinese offshore wind work, to operate at US offshore wind farms.

Vard says that the low-fuel-consumption vessel will incorporate “a state-of-the-art hull form designed for all weather conditions which, together with the specified propulsion configuration, offers economical steaming, enhanced seakeeping abilities, and excellent station keeping performance”.

“With our track record in SOV and offshore vessel designs and ABS’ record in the offshore sector, working together to deliver this project seemed like a natural fit,” said Darren Truelock, vice-president at Vard Marine Houston.

“We already have experience supporting yards worldwide to construct our offshore vessel designs, so it is with great enthusiasm that we now start on this exciting journey with ABS in the US.”

Construction of the US’ first offshore wind farm, the 30MW Block Island, used a ‘workaround’ to avoid contravening the Jones Act where a Fred Olsen Windcarrier installation vessel crossed the Atlantic with turbines and jackets but did not visit a US port, instead offloading the components to a US-flagged barge for transport to the offshore construction site off Rhode Island.

ABS has previously classified the world’s largest wind installation vessel, Seajacks Scylla.