Vessel forced to leave French offshore wind farm after protests turn ugly
Trenching support vessel Aethra was forced to leave the Saint-Brieuc offshore wind farm after the local fishermen protesting the project breached several safety protocols and verbally threatened the safety of the captain and the crew.
The Aethra was deployed on the site when a large number of fishing boats surrounded the vessel.
The fishermen then proceeded to breach the 500-metre safety zone around the Aethra, fire distress flares, and threaten to board the vessel and sabotage the propulsion and hurl insults at the captain of the Aethra via VHF, according to Préfecture maritime de l’Atlantique.
Surrounded and approached by several fishing vessels, the captain of Aethra then decided to leave the work area in order to lower the level of tension and to put his crew and his vessel to safety.
”Ailes Marines denounces the unacceptable behavior of certain professional fishermen during the demonstration organized today on the work area of the Saint-Brieuc offshore wind farm,” Ailes Marines, the developer of the wind farm, said.
”Ailes Marines notes with great concern that the essential maritime safety rules have been widely flouted by the ships of the demonstrators present in the area.”
The offenses were identified by police officers onboard two vessels mobilized to the site by Préfecture maritime de l’Atlantique.
The protest, reportedly organised via social media networks, ended shortly before noon, Thursday, 24 June.
On their return to the quay, the offending fishermen were met by the gendarmes of the maritime gendarmerie research brigade, Préfecture maritime de l’Atlantique said.
The gandarmerie is currently carrying out the first hearings within the framework of the judicial inquiry conducted by the Brest maritime prosecutor’s office.
”By approaching a few meters away and firing distress flares, the protesters endangered the safety of sailors working on board AETHRA, as well as their own safety. AETHRA sailors and accompanying boats were victims of verbal and physical threats, they had to leave the area of operations to ensure the safety of those on board,” Ailes Marines said.
”Ailes Marines considers that professional fishermen are free to express their dissatisfaction and to demonstrate. However, Ailes Marines notes that an unacceptable limit has been crossed today. Consequently, the company will prosecute by legal means all the people who by their reckless actions violate the elementary maritime safety rules and endanger the life of the crews of the ships operating on the site,” Ailes Marines said.
This is not the first time the local fishermen tried to disrupt the construction of the wind farm in this manner.
Back in May, the fishermen surrounded Van Oord’s jack-up Aeolus deployed on the site to install the wind farm’s foundations. The safety zone was breached and distress flares fired at that time, as well.
The 496 MW Saint-Brieuc offshore wind farm, located 16.3 kilometres off the coast of Brittany, is scheduled to become operational in 2023. Ailes marines is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iberdrola.