U.S. Offshore Wind

CTVs and SOVs

Growing Demand for CTVs and SOVs in the US Offshore Wind Market

The developing U.S. offshore wind market is creating a long-term demand for new Jones Act CTVs and SOVs. But how many will be needed and what will they do?

By Philip Lewis, Research Director of Intelatus Global Partners

Copyright twixter/AdobeStock

The events of recent months have shown that the impetus to continue to grow the U.S. offshore wind segment has lost little steam. The foundations are firmly in place to support the deployment of 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and 110 GW by 2050. Two major Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) projects with around 940 megawatts (MW) of capacity have already reached final investment decision (FID) and have commenced onshore construction. The number of projects that are expected to make an FID within the next 18 months amounts to around 4 gigawatts (GW) of capacity. A further 16 projects with a capacity of close to 14.5 GW are expected to make an FID within 18-36 months as well as projects with an additional 10 GW in 36-60 months. Longer term, we have identified 38 projects with a total capacity of 43 GW, which support the installation of a cumulative 66 GW by 2035 and 76 GW by 2040 in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico.

Yet despite these demand drivers and local content preferences supported by the Jones Act, there has been relatively limited new building activity for crew transfer vessels (CTVs) and service operations vessels (SOVs) in the U.S. Till now, three CTVs have been delivered and are working, 13 vessels have been contracted for delivery in 2023 and 2034 and options have been agreed for a further five CTVs. In the SOV market, two Tier 1 SOVs are under construction and a Tier 3 oil and gas vessel conversion is underway. This activity is falling short of the long-term demand for vessels.

Solid demand drivers for CTVs and SOVs in the U.S. market

The key demand driver for CTVs and SOVs is the number of turbines installed, the size of projects they are installed in and the distance of projects from shore.

Typically, CTVs are deployed to wind farms less than 50 kilometers offshore, which till recently has been the global trend. But as wind farms move further offshore and projects are developed with a great number of turbines, SOV demand is increasing.

Exhibit 1 shows the development of turbine commissioning activity by region in the U.S. offshore wind market through 2035. More than 4,000 turbines will be installed in the forecast period, with over 55% in the North Atlantic region. We also anticipate offshore turbine installation in (in descending order of size of activity) the South Atlantic, West Coast, Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes regions.

Source: Intelatus Global Partners

Exhibit 1 Activity by Region and Commissioning Date


CTVs have evolved as the preferred access solution for offshore wind projects closer to shore, with several hundred vessels active globally. They are usually aluminum catamarans accommodating 12 to 24 passengers. Transit speeds range between 15-25 knots, although some vessels have a top speed of up to 30 knots. Given that these are small vessels, they are weather sensitive, and downtime of 30-40% can be expected in weather conditions similar to the North Sea.

Based on the project cluster approach of developers that we analyze in our monthly U.S. Offshore Wind Report, we forecast a long-term demand from developers to support wind operations and maintenance of 65-145 CTVs. Further, to support construction and commissioning work, developers and installation contractors will likely charter on a short- to medium-term basis from 150 to as many as 355 vessels through 2035. Note that this is a gross demand figure and does not take into account that CTVs will likely move from one project to another, thus reducing overall demand numbers.

The wind turbine manufacturers (OEMs) are key sources of CTV demand, chartering vessels to support turbine commissioning, warranty periods and service contracts. Based on the number of turbines forecast to be commissioned through 2035, we estimate a gross demand of 80-140 CTVs to support turbine OEMs. As with the construction and commissioning CTV segment, the demand figure does not take into account that CTVs will likely move from one project to another, thus reducing overall demand numbers.

There are currently two small offshore wind farms operating in the U.S.: Block Island and Coastal Virginia. The operators of both wind farms have chartered one CTV each for long-term O&M support. These CTVs will go on to support the operators’ other projects as part of a clustering strategy. The turbine supplier on one of the projects is also operating a CTV.

Of the 13 current CTV newbuilding projects, four are contracted to the operators of large project clusters and will be chartered on a long-term basis. A further seven vessels are committed to short- and medium-term construction and commissioning work, with a least three chartered to turbine OEMs.

Exhibit 2 examines how the CTV market works and identifies three distinct demand segments.

Source: Intelatus Global Partners

Exhibit 2 How the CTV Market Works

Introducing the SOV market

There is much excitement about the potential demand for SOVs in the U.S. Offshore wind market. Let’s have a look at the global market more closely to understand how the market works and how we expect it to develop.

Exhibit 3 establishes that there are three tiers of SOVs, the purpose-built commissioning and O&M SOVs: the Tier 2 walk-to-walk vessels converted from traditional oil and gas work and the Tier 3 vessels which move in and out of the market to meet short-term demand. By the end of 2022, we expect the global Tier 1 fleet to number 29 SOVs. Yard commitments and market drivers indicate short- to medium-term market growth rates of over 25% per year.

In the U.S. market, we forecast an operator demand for as many as 40-80 SOVs through 2035 with turbine OEMs also potentially choosing Tier 3 SOVs to work with CTVs to support an increasing number of turbines.

Source: Intelatus Global Partners

Exhibit 3 The Global SOV Market

A positive outlook for shipbuilding stakeholders

U.S. CTV and SOV demand presents an opportunity for domestic vessel owners, ship designers, shipyards, equipment suppliers, port facilities and local vessel crews. Several U.S. shipbuilders are already active in the CTV segment. Blount Boats (Rhode Island), Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding (Massachusetts), Gulf Craft (Louisiana), Senseco Marine (Rhode Island) and St. Johns Ship Building (Florida) are all establishing their track records in the field but also have certain capacity limitations. We have identified at least 30 other U.S. shipyards capable of building CTVs, and we expect many to have the opportunity to participate in the market in the coming years.

In the SOV segment, Edison Chouest and Otto Candies have both taken the first steps in establishing an SOV track record. We anticipate further activity for a broad spectrum of U.S. yards and suppliers in the coming years.

For more information about the Intelatus Global Partners U.S. Offshore Wind Report, please visit www.intelatus.com or contact Michael Kozlowski at +1 561-733-2477 or Philip Lewis at +44 203-966-2492

About the Author:

Philip Lewis is Director Research at Intelatus Global Partners. He has extensive market analysis and strategic planning experience in the global energy, maritime and offshore oil and gas sectors. Intelatus Global Partners has been formed from the merger of International Maritime Associates and World Energy Reports.

October 2022