‘Floating hotel’ offers new wave comfort

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FROM their floating hotel in the North Sea it’s just a 15-minute commute to work.

More than a hundred offshore wind farm workers eat and sleep on board this P&O Ferry, while they are working on dozens of turbines off Skegness.

Yesterday was changeover day at Immingham Docks for the crew and workers - some 150 in all - who spend two weeks every month on board the European Seaway - the first of a new wave of accommodation, offered by P&O to cater for the emerging offshore wind industry.

Second officer Pawel Zieminski is among a multicultural crew heading home, in his case to Szczecin.

The wind farm workers include welders and inspectors, whose job is strengthening the bases of the turbines at Inner Dowsing, an established wind farm, now four-years-old.

They work 12 hours shifts on and off, spending their time on board sleeping, tapping away on laptops in the main restaurant, watching videos or in the gym.

Some come from an Army background, others car manufacturing, and there are even ex civil servants among them.

Boredom is the enemy when the weather makes it impossible to work - they have to come off the turbines when the height of the waves exceeds 1.5m.

It is a dry ship - there are no bars or casinos on this ferry - making the quality and quantity of the food a key issue.

Head chef Steve Bushell, who is used to dishing up meals to thousands of ferry passengers in his normal role, said: “They are big men and they are working men and they have a hungry appetite when they’ve been stuck up a turbine for 12 hours. It could be half a chicken and a few slices of beef - two meals in one.

“It’s a working vessel and their home for two weeks and the only thing they have to look forward to is food - we have to make sure they have enough to eat.”

The ferry needed a number of modifications to serve its new purpose.

But within three days, if need be, she could be back plying her old route.

Ian Robinson, P&O Ferries’ new business implementation manager, said: “We are looking at every opportunity to utilise existing tonnage to support the renewables industry, which will obviously be a very important part of the UK’s economy, as well as building new ships and using our expertise in ship operations and fleet management.”