Categories: BusinessPublished On: 14.10.2019978 words4.9 min read


Offshore renewable energy installations: impact on shipping

How wind farms and wave and tidal energy devices can endanger navigation, emergency response operations, marine radar and GPS communications.


In the UK, there is an increasing number of Offshore Renewable Energy Installations (OREIs) including wind farms, and wave and tidal energy devices. This forms part of the government’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and tackling climate change.

The location, size and irregular shape of OREIs present new challenges to the safe navigation and communication of shipping and emergency rescue. These difficulties could contribute to a marine casualty leading to injury, death or loss of property, either at sea or among the population ashore.

This guide provides details on the impact of OREIs on navigational safety and emergency response. The information is particularly useful for OREI developers. It also provides information on navigation and voyage planning to help you assess all risks and plan safe passage. Finally, this guide includes research on the impact of OREIs on marine radar, communications and positioning systems and search and rescue helicopter operations.

Offshore Renewable Energy Installation impact on navigational safety and emergency response

Existing or proposed OREIs in UK internal waters, territorial sea or in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) beyond the territorial sea have the potential to affect marine navigation and safety.

The impact must be assessed and mitigation measures put in place to ensure the safety of life at sea.  Assessments need to be made of the consequences of ships deviating from normal routes and recreational or fishing vessels entering shipping routes in order to avoid proposed sites.  As an OREI developer, you will need to ensure that you minimise the impact of your developments.

OREIs can include:

  • offshore wind farms
  • marine current turbines
  • wave generators
  • any other installation

Recommendations for OREI

If you are an OREI developer seeking formal consent for marine works, you will need to consider recommendations from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). If you fail to consider these recommendations, there may be objections to your proposal on the grounds of navigational safety or emergency response preparedness. Download Marine Guidance Note (MGN) 543 (M+F) Navigational, safety and emergency response guidance for OREIs.

You can find information on development consents and licensing for OREIs over 100 megawatts in England and Wales on the Infrastructure Planning Commission website and for OREIs in Scotland on the Marine Scotland website.

You can also find information on development consents and licensing for OREIs between 1 and 100 megawatts on the Marine Management Organisation website and Natural.

The recommendations also include information to address the navigational impact and emergency response of proposed OREI sites. The development of an OREI requires a clear consent process to deal with potential detrimental effects and should take account of local factors, national standards and international aspects which could influence the establishment of an OREI.

The Energy Act 2004 also established a regulatory regime for OREIs beyond territorial waters, in the UK’s EEZ. This supplements the regime which already applies in UK internal and territorial waters and Section 99 deals specifically with navigation. Read the Energy Act 2004 on the website.

How and when the OREI recommendations should be used

If you are an OREI developer, you and your contracted environmental and risk assessors should take the recommendations into account for all sites within the jurisdiction of port limits or in open sea areas for the preparation of:

  • Scoping Reports
  • Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA)
  • Environmental Statements (ES)

You may also be required to comply with specific criteria from port authorities. Also, where proposals within port limits could affect navigation or emergency planning or response, the port authorities will be under an obligation to review its safety management system, in accordance with the Port Marine Safety Code. You should undertake such reviews in parallel with your EIA, with the outcome addressed in the resulting ES.

You should comply with the recommendations during all phases of:

  • planning
  • construction
  • operation
  • decommissioning

During these phases, you should immediately send information concerning the navigational impact to all relevant mariners, organisations and authorities.

You should plan and practice contingency arrangements to deal with marine casualties in or adjacent to sites, including responses to environmental pollution, to test their efficiency.

These recommendations can be changed or modified by the MCA – on the basis of experience or in accordance with internationally recognised standards – in the interest of safety of life at sea and protection of the marine environment.

You should assess navigational and communication impacts or difficulties around the site area and surroundings to determine any potential obstruction of, or danger to, seafarers or emergency response services. This assessment will also help to establish the best options to be adopted, including those of operational site monitoring.

You should consult with local and national search and rescue authorities, and consider the types of aircraft, vessels and equipment which might be used in emergencies. This should include the possible use of OREI structures as emergency refuges and any matters that might affect emergency response within or close to the OREI.

You should also assess the consequences of ships deviating from normal routes and recreational or fishing vessels entering shipping routes in order to avoid proposed sites. It is important to consider any situation which could lead to safety of navigation being compromised, eg:

  • an increase in end-on or crossing encounters
  • reduction in sea-room or water depth for manoeuvring – leading to choke points

When considering navigational priority, you should treat all seagoing water craft, operations and mariners as the same.

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