Story 1: Belgium and the Netherlands working together to develop a solution
When Belgium and the Netherlands sought to develop offshore wind farms near the Scheldt estuary, conflict soon arose with the shipping sector. There was a risk that offshore wind developments would reduce the available space for navigation, and there were concerns that this could affect the safety and efficiency of shipping in this area. A wind farm that is spaced too tightly can be a challenge as ships may not see each other in time to prevent possible collisions. In this particular area, an added difficulty was the presence of sand banks, which further limit navigation and represent an added hazard in rough seas. When the problem first arose, there was a lack of understanding of the sectors involved – both private and public.
It soon became apparent that a sectoral approach to planning for offshore wind developments was insufficient in this case. There was a need for a more integrated approach to planning where the interests of the shipping sector would be taken into consideration early in the planning process, in order to avoid possible conflicts and associated financial losses down the line.
A Joint Belgium and the Netherlands consultation group consisting of public authorities, ports, former vessel operators, consultants, shipping companies and associations, as well as offshore wind farm developers was formed to define the best route and propose safety measures and rerouting to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). However, the impact of the proposed measures on the safety of navigation had to be confirmed by the Formal Safety Assessment, an IMO requirement. For this reason, the countries jointly contracted the Maritime Institute Netherlands (MARIN) to conduct a risk assessment of the proposed routing measures using SAMSON model. A proposal by each country was then submitted and approved by the IMO. The cooperation between the two countries was crucial given the cross-border nature of this conflict. Also, the use of specialised institutes and tools has contributed to reaching a solution.