Mayflower Corporation, a British engineering company better known for building buses and fire engines, has won its first maritime lifting contract using a crane ship it is having purpose built in China.

Subsidiary Mayflower Energy is part of a consortium that has been awarded a £74m ($110m) contract to install thirty 2MW wind turbines at National Wind Power’s North Hoyle offshore wind farm, 7km off the coast of Wales. Mayflower’s partners include the Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas which is currently nearing the completion of the Horns Rev project off the coast of Denmark, the world’slargest offshore wind farm.

Mayflower has invested £22.5m ($34m) in a purpose-designed vessel which is being built in China. The boat arrives in Europe early next year when it will be fitted with two deck cranes – one main, one auxiliary – by Dutch crane builder Kenz. Work at North Hoyle begins in mid 2003.

At Horns Rev the turbines are being installed by A2Sea, under subcontract to Vestas. By 1 August it had installed 53 of the 80 turbines and was on course to meet the 3 September completion deadline. A2Sea’s two crane ships are similar in concept to the one which Mayflower is having built. Key differences include six jack-up legs on Mayflower’s, as opposed to four on A2Sea’s vessels, and deck space to carry 10 turbines instead of two. A2Sea said that it had chosen not to bid for North Hoyle.

On Horns Rev, civils contractor MT Højgaard is in line for an early completion bonus, having already installed the foundations, through subcontractor Mammoet Van Oord Windmills BV. This joint venture between Mammoet and Van Oord had been planning on using a new purpose built jack-up barge for offshore wind farm projects but technical problems have delayed its delivery. By hiring-in the jack-up barges Wind and Buzzard Mammoet Van Oord was able to complete its task smoothly even without its new barge, to be called Jumping Jack.

The North Rhyl wind farm is one of 18 planned for UK waters alone. Offshore wind turbine erection is seen as a major new market for the lifting industry and to date A2Sea, Mayflower and Mammoet Van Oord are positioning themselves as the three key players.