‘Global North East: Driving growth in North East trade and exports’ is a new report published by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership – in partnership with the Department for International Trade (DIT) and North East England Chamber of Commerce – that outlines how the region can build its competitiveness, drive higher productivity, and create more and better jobs by increasing international trade.
To demonstrate how an increase in exporting in the North East can help build the region’s economy, below is a case study from offshore wind engineering company, Osbit, about its recent exporting success, which saw the company create an 800-tonne pile gripper system for the first large-scale wind farm in Taiwan.
In the post-COVID world, where everyone has a lockdown project, one North East company can lay claim to delivering the most impressive.
In 34 weeks, Osbit – which designs, develops and manufactures bespoke engineered systems – created an 800-tonne “pile gripper” system from scratch that is helping lay the foundations for a green power revolution in South East Asia.
The business, based at Riding Mill, Northumberland, is developing a global reputation for innovative engineering solutions, and is gaining plaudits for delivering such an ambitious project on deadline, during the global COVID-19 lockdown.
The pile gripper system is being used to install monopiles, the foundations that support offshore wind turbines, at an offshore wind farm in Taiwan, which is the first large-scale wind farm in the rapidly growing Taiwanese market.
Thanks to the 800-tonne gripper, the wind farm’s 80 monopile foundations are being successfully laid, each of which measure 100 metres in length and weigh in at almost 1,900 tonnes.
Osbit Joint Managing Director, Brendon Hayward, said: “To deliver this project spec, on budget and on time, was down to good planning and, without doubt, the skill and determination of our team who overcame a host of challenges, not least the restrictions the COVID pandemic placed on how they could safely operate.
“Most of the equipment Osbit makes is manufactured in the North East, but because of restricted travel and the cost of shipping materials to South East Asia, our project team instead set up in Singapore and over the course of 34 weeks delivered the pile gripper for installation on a vessel that is capable of handling the largest monopiles in the world.”
The Osbit pile gripper is used to maintain the vertical position of the monopile foundations as they are driven into the seabed.
The gripper is also environmentally considerate, incorporating a “Near Pile Noise Mitigation” system, minimising subsea noise and vibration during installation. The system dampens the energy emitted into the environment, further protecting marine life.
“Everything we do is about effective collaboration, so working with such a tight project team away from our headquarters presented its own challenges,” added Brendon, who co-created Osbit in 2010. “But everyone on the team performed incredibly, adhering to the strict safety guidelines we introduced to protect their wellbeing.
“Health and safety is paramount to us. We developed and implemented protocols to keep our employees safe and healthy and this was amplified for those working in Singapore. We also made sure that every member of the team had an open plane ticket, so they could quickly return home if circumstances changed or COVID protocols were altered.”
The gripper system was successfully completed and is being used by Sapura Energy to install monopiles in the Yunlin Offshore Wind Farm.
Osbit continues to make waves in global markets and the firm recently secured funding to expand its presence in the US, in the form of a business development consultancy contract.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) is also working with Osbit on expanding its international work in offshore energy markets, utilising the company’s skill in equipment development and expertise in wind and energyinnovations.
Victoria Gemmill, of the DIT Northern Powerhouse Regional Team, said: “Osbit is a great case study of how to successfully operate in overseas markets. Undaunted by the restrictions placed upon this potential project by the most dangerous pandemic in living memory, the company developed sensible, safe procedures and protocols to overcome every obstacle placed in its path to deliver what is one of the most exciting and innovative offshore projects in the world.
“The gripper project is an incredible feat of engineering and skill and is literally laying the foundations for a cleaner, greener planet.”
Richard Baker, Strategy & Policy Director at North East LEP, said: “Osbit is a fantastic North East business, harnessing all of our traditional regional skill in engineering and adding that spark of creative inspiration to elevate it above others operating in its field.
“As the global economy shakes free of the shackles of COVID, I hope other businesses will be inspired by what Osbit achieved, against the odds, to deliver this important, pioneering project.”
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