Last week Hartlepool’s Able UK brought in the staggering 250,000-tonne Brent Bravo oil rig into its quay on the world’s largest vessel.

Thursday, 27th June 2019, 4:45 pm
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and the Brent Bravo rig.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and the Brent Bravo rig.

This is a huge coup, setting us out as a leader in marine decommissioning, helping to create and sustain proper jobs and real economic growth.

It’s being dismantled in a very environmentally friendly way, and I’ve always championed our potential to lead the way for a greener UK economy not least through the opportunities we have to establish our region as a clean energy powerhouse.

Our region has one of the UK’s greatest concentrations of companies operating in the offshore oil and gas, subsea, decommissioning and offshore wind sectors. The supply chain alone is made up of over 400 direct and 3,000 indirect companies that employ over 4,250 people.

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With such a massive head start, I’m working on a huge deal which will establish the Tees Valley as the European capital for offshore wind.

Planning documents have already been submitted for a site that would support the assembly, installation and servicing of the wind farms of the future, just across the river from Hartlepool.

This would include those that will make up part of the world’s largest wind farm, Dogger Bank, just eighty miles off the North East coast.

When fully developed, Dogger Bank will provide the UK with 4.8GW of clean, renewable power for decades. This is about 10% of the UK’s total electricity requirements, and will be transported via underground, high-voltage cables to substations in the region.

Crucially, this single site in our region has the potential to help create thousands of good-quality jobs over the next few years which will be able to be filled by local people.

The plans showed that it could also change our landscape, with the instillation of a 156m crane – two and a half times the height of Middlesbrough’s Transporter Bridge! The crane would be required for the loading and unloading the ships and stand as a testament to our expertise.

Another fantastic selling point for our offshore sector is our publically-owned airport. It has recently been hitting the headlines thanks to some great holiday deals, but it’s not only about helping people jet off on sunny breaks. Our 10-Year Rescue Plan is looking to attract commercial investors to get our airport back into profit.

That’s why I’m continuing to work closely with investors SSE and Norwegian energy giant Equinor to bring them onto the airport site.

Their Operations and Maintenance base will see engineers and support staff sent directly from a Heliport at the airport to the £3.2billion Dogger Bank wind farm, both during the construction of the wind farm and while it’s operational.

Equinor have already said the safety and security of public ownership will ensure that the airport is favourably considered above others sites across the region.

Our success as a region depends on our ability to work, trade and collaborate with old friends and new allies around the world. That means we have to be as accessible, visible, competitive and pro-active as possible – especially as we leave the European Union.

Securing the future of our airport has given airlines, existing businesses and future investors like Equinor and SSE the confidence and certainty they need to put their faith in our area.

There are countless more opportunities out there, and I’ve been to huge trade shows and major conferences across the UK to sell our region, open doors and close deals with the right businesses and to finish off the job.

The winds of change are coming, and the Tees Valley’s ready to profit.