26 October 2022
Willem van der Wel, Managing Director, has been with Windcat Workboats (Windcat) for over 11 years and during his time in the company, Willem has experienced significant changes both the industry and Windcat went through. Windcat now pioneers the energy transition with its vessels operating in the offshore wind industry and Willem is more than willing to detail the past, the present and the future of the offshore wind industry - and hydrogen as a prominent source of energy.
Windcat has been designing and producing their own Crew Transfer Vessels, CTVs, for over 19 years and has been a leading industry player ever since its inception. As the company moves on to further increase their prominence within the renewable energy industry, particularly offshore wind, Windcat is now starting to emphasize the power of hydrogen to fuel their vessels and operations.
Two Decades of Pursuing Innovation
Willem details how the company was founded by aiming to bring innovation into the industry – something Windcat is still trying to achieve even today: “Windcat was founded after our founders realized traditional vessels would not be suitable for offshore wind’s needs – after a trip to some offshore work sites, our founders realized there was going to be a need for having specialized vessels to transport dedicated offshore wind personnel to their areas of work, they immediately started planning the development of such vessels – and within a year the first offshore wind dedicated CTV was operational.”
Recently, Windcat has joined the larger CMB family – one of the largest maritime groups in the world, and Willem argues it has been something that allowed Windcat to further pursue their goals of offering sustainable CTVs for the offshore industry: “We had a great partnership with our previous shareholder but as we continued to expand our operations and scope, we wanted to find a solution for the fact that we were using diesel fuel for our CTVs. When we found out CMB was already using hydrogen as fuel for a smaller passenger vessel, we reached out to them via a shared business partner and from that point forward we started to enjoy a great collaboration which led to us exploring the first series of hydrogen driven CTVs.”
Grand Ambitions for Hydrogen Industry
Speaking of hydrogen, there is a lot of buzz around the molecule in both Windcat and the industry – the only difference, Willem explains, is that Windcat has been acting on it: “These days there is a lot of discussion surrounding hydrogen as a remarkable and promising source of energy – but most of most of these discussions never pass that talking phase. In Windcat, we wanted to take action instead and initiated a program to have the first hydrogen powered CTVs in the industry and we now have our first hydrogen fueled vessel, Hydrocat 48, fully operational.” He also explains how some of their initial conventional vessels built 20 years ago and this top of the line hydrogen powered vessel are both operational – emphasizing durability and strength of their expansive fleet.
Windcat now has the first and only hydrogen bunkering permit in the Netherlands in the Port of IJmuiden. Willem explains: “We have built the means to supply our vessels with hydrogen so we can continue building up on our new fleet. However, production and logistics of hydrogen is still a challenge nations and companies have to tackle as larger vessels, operations will need more investment to have a more sustainable line of supply.”
However, Windcat already thought of tackling these initial issues: “Our hydrogen powered CTVs are designed to use dual fuel engines – the main engines can use hydrogen as fuel source in combination with diesel as pilot fuel, but can still also operate on traditional diesel fuel alone as well, making it a very reliable solution in these early days of hydrogen as fuel, so that the work never gets disrupted.”
Atlas Professionals assisted Windcat’s endeavours by sourcing Professionals for various roles. As a recruitment company with more than four decades of experience, Atlas Professionals strives to offer personnel sourcing solutions for innovative business demands in a sustainable and safe manner and will continue to do so in the future.
Speaking of future – Willem is certain hydrogen will play a huge role in energy transition and Windcat will continue to be an influential industry player: “When you think about how we went on to rely on oil and gas to power our infrastructure throughout the last century, I think we are going to experience the same type of deal with hydrogen,” argues Willem. “It will be one of the core energy sources we are going to use in the future and CMB and Windcat will continue to be an industry leading figure regarding hydrogen developments.”