BUILT in 1885 to export 5m tonnes of coal a year from Yorkshire’s mines, the Alexandra dock in Hull once caused foreign visitors to marvel at its scale and modernity. After a long decline it closed at last in 1982. Along with it went much of Hull’s dockyard industry, and not a little of its pride.

As recently as last year the half-derelict site was filled with rusty sheds, old caravans and broken wooden pallets. But all that has now been swept away by a £310m ($415m) wind-turbine factory. On September 1st workers began to cast its first enormous fibreglass blade. Measuring 75 metres (250 feet) in length—longer than the world’s largest jetliner—the blade will be floated out into the North Sea next year to form part of a new bank of turbines.

Rundown dock towns around Britain are hoping green energy can restore their fortunes. They are due a break. Hull saw its fishing industry collapse when it lost access to fishing grounds off Iceland in the 1970s and shed most of its docking jobs in the 1980s after a container terminal opened nearby. Recent years have been no kinder. There has been a near-total halt in global orders for big ships this year, caused by overcapacity in the shipping business. Shipyards making North Sea rigs have been hit by falling oil prices. By the end of the year the number of jobs supported by Britain’s oil and gas industry will be a quarter lower than at its peak in 2014, predicts Oil & Gas UK, an industry body.

And so ports and shipyards are now pinning their hopes for revival on the offshore wind business, in which jobs have grown by almost a third since 2012. “Where coal was once exported, we’ll be exporting green energy,” says Finbarr Dowling, project manager at the Alexandra dock. Funded by Siemens, a German engineering giant, and Associated British Ports, which owns the port, it is Hull’s biggest investment since Victorian times.

The old docks are perfect for assembling offshore windmills, Mr Dowling explains. The blades are too big to travel by road, rail or plane, and therefore too expensive to travel from countries where they could be made more cheaply. Unlike much other heavy manufacturing, production of turbines is likely to remain in Britain.

With plenty of wind farms planned in the North Sea, the new facilities will be busy for decades. The latest phase of the nearby Hornsea farm, which will eventually be the world’s largest, was given the green light last month. When complete it will stretch 160km (100 miles).

Although subsidies for onshore wind have been slashed over the past year, political support for offshore wind remains strong, says Jan Matthiesen of the Carbon Trust, an advisory body. The government wants wind-generated electricity to double by 2030. With fierce local opposition to onshore wind farms, it is politically easier to hide them away at sea, though offshore turbines are more expensive to run.

Other ports are also benefiting from the offshore boom. South-east of Hull, long-abandoned fishing quays in Grimsby are being spruced up by Dong Energy, a Danish firm which plans to invest £6 billion in British wind farms. In Belfast, Harland and Wolff, the shipyard that built the Titanic, now gets 75% of its revenues from making green-energy equipment. Samson and Goliath, the yard’s two giant cranes, now build wind and tidal turbines instead of ocean liners. In May they helped build the world’s largest wave-energy generator. Firms in Aberdeen, Dundee and Newcastle, hit hard by the slump in oil and gas work, are also switching over production.

Ports hope the change will be a boon for their wider economies. Hull City Council estimates that each job at the blade factory will create another three in the city. Siemens’ facilities will eventually employ 1,000 people. That is a small fraction of the 17,000 who worked at Hull’s docks 50 years ago; clearly, green energy will not solve all British dockyards’ problems. But it will give them a welcome tailwind.



Напишите нам по любому интересующему вопросу, в самое ближайшее время мы с Вами свяжемся.


Введите данные:

Forgot your details?