Port Screening: Is Suitability Evaluation Enough?

Port infrastructures are anticipated bottlenecks, and consequently key enablers for commercial scale offshore wind projects, making wise port selection crucial. KONGSTEIN has evaluated over 100 ports in 12 countries for its offshore wind clients, particularly for floating wind projects.
Therefore, we share the early-screening methodology we offer our clients. The first step focuses on identifying suitable ports based on their technical compatibility with project requirements. Later in the process, we also delve into port availability, commercial, and contractual considerations.

How It Is Usually Done

Ports are typically assessed based on their suitability to meet various technical project requirements, such as:
⦁ Distance to site,
⦁ Storage area,
⦁ Quay length,
⦁ Quay bearing capacity,
⦁ Available equipment.

At the end of this process, a technical suitability score is calculated for each port, and the best ones are selected. Some reservations might be added if limited information has been gathered or if the port development timeline might conflict with the project execution timeline.

KONGSTEIN’s Novel Approach

During our first stage port screening, KONGSTEIN evaluates up to 45 technical requirements that fall into 5 main categories:

  • Transit to field,
  • Waterfront,
  • Onshore,
  • Wet Storage,
  • Other services and track record.

And we do it twice for each port:

  • its current setup (NOW)
  • its future infrastructure based on the announced development plans (ex: 2030)

This provides us with a valuable visualization of the suitability gap that needs to be addressed before the project begins.

Figure 1: KONGSTEIN Double Suitability Evaluation of a port.

Our experience has led us to a second dimension in port screening, which we call the confidence level.

The two primary reasons behind it are:

  • DEVELOPMENT PLANS UNCERTAINTY: The projects for which ports are scouted are often in early-stage developments, and project execution will only happen 5 to 10 years later. In that time frame, the port will undoubtedly develop itself and have new specifications. The status and magnitude of these development plans vary significantly from one port to another. This ranges from a 20 million Euro upgrade that is already under construction to a 1 billion Euro port refurbishment project that has not yet secured any funding. We take that into consideration.
  • INFORMATION AVAILABILITY AND QUALITY: The quality and quantity of the port data significantly can impact the screening outcome. This is why KONGSTEIN always gets in contact with the port authorities to collect the latest data available and preferably work with the CAD file provided by the port. However, in most screening studies, all project requirements cannot be evaluated due to missing or approximative information. We incorporate that into our evaluation.

KONGSTEIN has developed a multi-criteria approach to include these considerations, among others, and come up with a confidence score.

Figure 2: KONGSTEIN port screening matrix.

Four port categories are emerging from this matrix:

  • FAVORABLE: A port that closely aligns with most project requirements. This usually refers to large, well-established offshore wind ports. Projects with reasonable port requirements are more likely to find suitable options here, as they don’t heavily depend on port upgrades.
  • RISKY: This typically refers to ports with ambitious development plans. Delays in port upgrade planning or changes in upgrade plans can pose risks to the project. Early stakeholder engagement and ongoing communication during the port upgrade are crucial to increase confidence. 
  • COMPROMISE: This category applies when a port does not meet enough project requirements, but the gaps are clearly identified. The project can still implement active mitigation measures to increase port suitability by lowering its requirements (e.g., fewer components stored on site) or investing in port upgrades.
  • UNFAVORABLE: Ports in this category are usually small with uncertain development plans. We recommend exploring other port options, even if it means increasing the transit distance to the site. Alternatively, investing in the port could be an option if the project developer or tier 1 contractor identifies a valid business case. Projects with reasonable port requirements are less likely to encounter ports in this category.

What Are the Benefits?

To answer that question, let’s consider a concrete example.
A 1GW floating wind project is under development, with the start of operation expected in 2031.
The closest port is Port A: located in a large industrial area, the port is currently used to export concrete and stone from a nearby quarry that will close in 2026. The port aims to become a major floating wind hub for floater assembly and wind turbine integration. Assuming massive investments which are not yet committed, the port would provide all the storage, equipment, quay length, and strength required for the project. Readiness is planned for 2030.
50 nautical miles further is Port B: the port has been involved in several offshore wind projects in recent years and has secured investments to reinforce its heavy-duty quay, protected by a new dike, and expand its storage area by 5ha. The port expansion work has already started in various development phases and is expected to be completed in 2028. If selected, the project will have to make some slight compromises in its logistical scenario.
A simplistic approach, only considering port specification vs. project requirement, would rank A > B.

Figure 3: Port suitability evaluation: simplistic approach.

Based on KONGSTEIN’s two-dimensional approach, the same screening would look like this:

Figure 4: Port suitability evaluation: KONGSTEIN approach.

So now, which port would you choose, A or B?
Curious about the answer? Get in touch with our port and floating wind expert Tim Mueller tm@kongstein.com.