The strong expansion of the number of wind turbines out at sea near the northern Dutch coast was reason enough for Ubels Offshore to expand its fleet with a fifth ship last year. Operating from the port of Eemshaven, the fast aluminium crew tender Vrijheid III fulfils the strictest safety requirements of its clients for the transport of passengers and goods. Henk Ubels Sr is very satisfied with the Yanmar diesel engines, which are proving their reliability day in, day out.
Maritime contractor Van Oord is beginning the construction of the Gemini Wind Park this year. A total of 150 wind turbines will be built 85 kilometres off the coast of the province of Groningen, equating to an investment of €2.8 billion. On average 500 people will be involved with the build for three years, followed by regular traffic to the wind turbines for maintenance. Preparations, such as the installation of cables, started in September and Ubels Offshore has been providing supporting services. Henk Ubels Sr, 73, is often behind the wheel of the vessel and even works night shifts: "Vrijheid III is driven at 1,700 rpm and has a cruising speed of 27 knots. That's when it's running beautifully. Even with 12 passengers on board we can easily reach its top speed of 37 knots. The engines don't even seem to notice it when you're at that speed. They are easily capable of it and have a lot of torque."
Their own finishing touches Vrijheid III is a DJS1350 High Speed Tender, a design by N. Dijkstra Metaalbewerking in Harlingen, who also built the hull. A few aspects of the vessel have been adapted to Ubels' wishes. The layout and access of the engine room are, for instance, different. The aluminium is thicker (8 mm) than the standard version. And the installation of lifting rings has proven to be very useful. Now and again, the impellers sucking in the water for the jets take on rubbish and with these lifting rings the vessel can be easily lifted out of the water to solve that problem. Henk Ubels Sr says: "At Waarschip, Delfzijl, we have rented space to finish the vessel ourselves, in which my son Henk Jr was closely involved. We are used to doing it all ourselves. With five vessels in action there is always something happening. That is also why we chose a Yanmar engine without electronics as we can maintain these ourselves. We chose Yanmar as we had heard good things about them, but the engines were also priced very favourably. After a year of operation we are very satisfied with the performance." Vrijheid III is 13.65 metres long and 4.50 metres wide. Two Yanmar 6HYM-WET diesel engines, of 500 hp each, power the two Hamilton water jets so that the draught is only 80 centimetres. The crew tender can reach a speed of 37 knots (68.5 km/hour) with 12 passengers and two crew members on board.
Maritime blood Henk Ubels Sr started providing services at sea more than 35 years ago. His maritime blood started flowing at a young age as a crew member on board of coasters. He spent his military service with the marines, but subsequently decided to work in the wholesale flower trade. "At the end of the seventies, I drove a rigid inflatable boat, a RIB, in my spare time. I had bought it in England as it was a type of vessel that was unknown here. I drew the attention of the Coast Guard and the lifeboat service (KNZHRM), and regularly helped them out."Ubels invested in a second RIB, but had to face up to a disappointment in 1994, when the lifeboat service stationed its own vessel in the Eems harbour. But he wasn't sad for long. Ubels passed on his flower wholesale company to his son and namesake Henk, and in 1999 started providing maritime services at sea, earning a good reputation. Henk Ubels Jr has since joined his father's company.
The fleet has five vessels: three crew tenders and two RIBs. Ubels Offshore is specialised in the transport of passengers on the Eems, the Wadden Sea and the North Sea, for dredging companies and the shipping industry. They also transport packages. The Ubels Offshore vessels are also used in emergencies, such as ships in distress.