Shipping group NYK and Dutch contractor Van Oord plan to own and operate Japanese-flagged offshore wind installation vessels, in another signal of the sector’s fast-gathering momentum in Japan.

Van Oord – a veteran of multiple big European offshore wind projects with ambitions in the Asian market – plans to start operating a jack-up in Japan with NYK as early as 2022, in time for the first wave of major offshore wind projects set to emerge from government tenders planned this year.

The vessel will “be suitable to install the latest generation of wind turbines” said a statement from NYK announcing a memorandum of understanding between the two.

The link with NYK – a big player in shipping in Japan and beyond – will enable the partners to operate under a Japanese flag, which it said is a prerequisite for working on projects in the country’s waters.

The two will also “explore opportunities to collaborate on other types of vessels required for the construction and operation of offshore wind farms”.

The agreement marks an expansion of Asian ambitions for Van Oord, which has already struck several deals in the key Taiwanese market.

The entry of NYK – which on Thursday also announced a link with Sweden’s Northern Offshore Group over crew transfer vessels – represents another ramping-up of supply chain activity as Japan emerges as the likely next big hotspot in global offshore wind.

Earlier this week Japanese energy group JERA linked with contracting and engineering specialist Shimizu – itself building a major offshore wind installation vessel – for possible collaboration at home and abroad.

Japan’s parliament in 2019 passed legislation clearing the way for first offshore wind tenders to take place this year to underpin long-term development of the sector, while the government has set a 10GW wind target (onshore and offshore combined) for 2030.

The gathering momentum has sparked the interest of global turbine OEMs, including the half-Japanese-owned MHI Vestas, and international developers such as RWE and Northland Power.