Norway’s Offshore Heavy Transport (OHT) has reached a key milestone in the construction of its new heavy-lift crane vessel, Alfa Lift, with the keel-laying for what will be the biggest offshore wind turbine foundation installation unit built in China by a European company so far.

Construction at China Merchants Heavy Industry (CMHI) facility in Jiangsu of the 48,000-tonne semisubmersible, which features a 3,000-tonne main crane and a main deck that can be submerged 15 metres underwater during offloading, is on-track for completion next year.

The giant unit, which will have accommodation for 100 personnel, will be able install up to 16 XL monopiles or ten jackets on each voyage. Alfa Lift is scheduled to be ready for market in 2021, starting with Northern European assignments.

“The spirit at the keel-laying ceremony reflected the energy and enthusiasm for this ground-breaking project,” said Bjarne Birkeland, Alfa Lift’s project manager. “We highly appreciate the good cooperation [with] CMHI.”

OHT CEO Torgeir Ramstad added: “We have worked together with the shipyard in an open and cooperative way to ensure the utmost quality of construction.

“Our vessel will serve the growing offshore wind market for decades to come,” he said, adding: “the word ‘growing’ is perhaps not precise enough to describe what is happening in [this] market.”

The keel-laying was attended by OHT owner Arne Blystad, company CEO Torgeir Ramstad, head of project execution Bertil Rognes and Alfa Lift project manager Bjarne Birkeland, with CMHI’s delegation led by general manager Wallace Yao.

Both Jan de Nul and Deme Group have built offshore wind installation vessels of a similar scale in China in recent years.

China has ambitions to install some 40GW of offshore wind plant in the coming three years but is being hampered by a shortage of offshore installation unit.

Analyst group Wood Mackenzie forecasts offshore wind power capacity off Asia as a whole growing to 45GW by 2030, up from just over 2GW in 2017, led by a 31GW build-out off China.