Kirby, Maersk enter offshore wind partnership

(HOUSTON) — Kirby Corp. has signed a commercial agreement for its wholly owned subsidiary, Kirby Offshore Wind, to provide barge transportation services involving  offshore wind towers and turbines for Maersk Supply Service.

Maersk Supply Service has been selected by Empire Offshore Wind, a joint venture between Equinor and BP, as the installation contractor for the project off the coast of New York. Kirby’s contract with Maersk represents a 20-year framework agreement with the Empire Wind projects being the first.

Kirby Offshore Wind will provide the Jones Act-compliant feeder barges and tugboats that will transport the wind towers and turbines from the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal to a specialized Maersk wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV). Kirby will be investing in two new American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) classed feeder barge and diesel-electric hybrid tugboat units, which will be constructed in U.S. shipyards for a total combined cost of between $80 million to $100 million.

Shutterstock/Kirby Corp. photo

Each feeder barge will have the capacity to transport next-generation turbines of 15 megawatts (MW) and higher as turbine technology advances. The capital investment for the new vessels will be incurred through progress payments over the 2023 to 2025 time frame. Kirby’s offshore marine facility in Staten Island, N.Y., as well as its marine headquarters in Houston will be the base of operations for the company’s offshore wind activities.

“We are excited to announce Kirby’s participation in the offshore wind market through our newest business division, Kirby Offshore Wind,” said David Grzebinski, Kirby’s president and chief executive officer. “We have been carefully evaluating opportunities to enter the offshore wind industry for several years, and we are very pleased to partner with world-class operators such as Maersk, Equinor and BP on a critical foundational project with a multi-year transportation agreement. Kirby’s participation in this renewable energy space will not only grow company earnings and returns, but will also greatly enhance our ESG product and service offerings in the coming years. Our commitment to build two next-generation feeder barges and emissions friendly diesel-electric hybrid tugboats, which could have the ability to substitute diesel for alternative fuels, is not only important for Kirby’s ESG journey, but also for the U.S. maritime sector. These vessels will create new American jobs, both during the construction phase at two U.S. shipyards, as well as for U.S. mariners once operations commence.”

“Offshore wind in the U.S. has tremendous potential for significant growth during this decade and beyond,” said Christian O’Neil, Kirby’s president of marine transportation. “As a leading provider of Jones Act-compliant barge services in the U.S. coastal trade, Kirby’s participation in the development and support of the offshore wind industry is critical to our future. These new vessels will complement the ABS-classed Maersk WTIV and support achievement of project efficiency gains.”

“Maersk’s wind turbine installation vessel is the first of its kind and will set a new standard for the efficiency of wind farm installations. The efficiency gains are made possible as the installation vessel can stay on location at the wind farm, while only the tugs and barges transport equipment to and from the port. With Kirby Offshore Wind, Maersk has found a solid U.S. partner, who shares the same values and vision to support the development of the U.S. wind market long term,” said Jonas Munch Agerskov, chief commercial officer at Maersk Supply Service.

Christopher J. Wiernicki, ABS chairman, president, and CEO, commented, “ABS and Kirby have a long and proud history of working together. We are pleased to be able to support them once again on these vessels with Maersk, as they come together to play an important role in delivering to the U.S. offshore wind market.”

Kirby and Maersk expect wind turbine installations and the associated feeder barge services to commence beginning in late 2025 or early 2026 once the construction of Maersk’s new WTIV is completed.

– Kirby Corp.

By Rich Miller