Lowestoft: Iceni Marine clinches �2m contract for wind farm support

A WIND farm support company launched by two fishermen has continued its remarkable success story by clinching a new five-year contract worth nearly �2million.

Iceni Marine, based at Lowestoft harbour, has agreed the contract with Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) to supply a fast response craft to service the Greater Gabbard wind farm nearing completion off the Suffolk coast.

The firm launched the �600,000 specialist boat last month and is now looking to recruit four local people –two skippers and two deckhands – to crew it. The 31 knot, fuel-efficient vessel will provide seven-day-a-week support, for example delivering emergency parts to the wind farm.

SSE offshore wind generation manager Stephen Rose said: “We worked with Iceni Marine on the design of this vessel and were keen to bring on board another local company.”

After being rebuffed by a succession of high street banks in their quest for a business loan, Richard Thurlow and Guy Gibson only took the first steps on their new career path when they found a financial backer in Ken Turner, a local entrepreneur who founded and built up the discount QD empire before selling it in 2004.

The pair, both still coxswains on Caister’s independent lifeboat, bought their first �200,000 vessel only three years ago. After their whirlwind rise, the Iceni Pride has become their fifth boat –and the company is in negotiation to build a further four, larger vessels at a cost of �7m over the next two years.

Mr Turner said: “It is a very prestigious thing to get a five-year contract and we have beaten off competition from some top companies. It is all credit to these two guys and their professionalism. Everything is right on the boats which are well maintained with the staff being well looked after. They are setting an example to others who want to tap into the offshore wind farm boom to do it properly.”

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Mr Thurlow, 29, of Caister, said: “The opportunities which arise from even a small wind farm are considerable for the whole of the local supply chain, and the scale of future developments will bring even greater benefits to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.”

Iceni Marine is now preparing to open an office at Lowestoft harbour to give adminstrative back-up to their rapidly expanding operation; within two years the staffing level is predicted to double to about 25.

Mr Gibson, 46, also of Caister, is proud his son Daniel, 19, has joined them, and pledged to focus future recruitment on the local area.

Mr Turner, who is chairman of South Walsham Parish Council, said Iceni Marine would be seeking to be at the vanguard of companies tapping into opportunities presented by the third round of offshore wind farm development from 2015.

They were already in discussion with developers regarding what sort of vessels would be needed to help build and service such giant wind farms at the East Anglia Array off the Suffolk and Norfolk coast.

He said: “It is early days, but their plans could involve hotel ships or rigid accommodation platforms or running staff out every day. Different types of support craft would be needed in each case.”