Helicopter specialist Bristow Group says a move into the offshore windfarm support market is a “strategic priority” for the firm as the energy sector increasingly transitions away from oil and gas to renewable power.

While the offshore wind market is a mature one in Europe and Asia, Bristow chief executive Chris Bradshaw told a 3 February third-quarter earnings call, it is “one that’s expected to continue to grow rapidly in those regions.”

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Company is world’s largest operator of AW139s

Comparatively, the sector in the USA is still “nascent” but one that is “expected to grow significantly with multiple projects and billions of dollars scheduled to be invested and, we believe, more on the heels of that.”

Bradshaw says the firm, which typically ferries workers out to oil platforms, is “well positioned” to take advantage of the growth opportunity given its “extensive experience operating in difficult offshore conditions.

“And importantly, the thousands and thousands of hours that we have with hoist experience, which is incredibly important when you get into the operating and maintenance phase of the wind farm.”

In Europe a move into the segment is “going to be a strategic priority for Bristow to penetrate that market and take advantage of some of the growth opportunities that we see there. And so we’re working now to position ourselves.”

Bradshaw says that its existing fleet of Leonardo Helicopters AW139 intermediate-twins – it has the largest inventory of the Italian-built rotorcraft in the world – will be ideal to support the construction of new offshore windfarms.

However, once the windfarm is operational new, smaller helicopters would be required such as the AW169 or Airbus Helicopters H145. Bristow already holds orders for five AW169s via its merger last year with Era Group.

Recent research from Air & Sea Analytics suggests that the fleet of helicopters required by the offshore wind sector will grow from 27 currently to 126 by 2030 – around $1 billion of new assets.

Although the merger with Era was only completed in June last year, Bristow continues to eye the market for further opportunities, says Bradshaw.

While declining to speculate on the state of its rivals, he says “I would say that we continue to believe that the industry needs and would benefit from additional consolidation.

“A lot of the rationale that underpin the logic of the Bristow-Era merger would apply in other combinations in different parts of the world where there is an excess amount of capacity, too much equipment, too many operators.”

A strong balance sheet will position the company to take advantage of any opportunities as they arise, he says.