It was the event Pembroke Dock had asked for, with two linked industries unveiling exciting plans for the future - plans to benefit local communities but with global impact.

Highlight of the evening for many was the chance to use the VR headset - to take a virtual walk on one of the proposed platforms of the Erebus Floating Wind Project and gaze up in awe at the giant turbine towering above. A scale model also helped people to understand the massive proportions of these turbines.

Speakers were Port of Milford Haven CEO Tom Sawyer, and David Jones of Blue Gem Wind, both happy to answer questions.

New weapon against climate change

Blue Gem Wind’s vision is to ‘create a new low carbon offshore energy sector in the Celtic Sea’. A short video illustrated the technology already in use in Portugal. “This energy promises an endless source,” boasted the narrator.

Describing floating wind turbines as “a new weapon against climate change”, David explained how, because they are floating, the turbines can be sited further offshore, lessening visual impact, and harnessing faster wind speeds.

Erebus will consist of seven platforms, each with a 15MW turbine. Situated about 30km from Lundy Island, the turbines would perhaps be visible from Freshwater West on a very clear day, said David.

The seven turbines will provide enough power for 93,000 homes, each platform held in place with five anchors weighing between 30 and 50 tons each.

“It’s an exciting time to be a school pupil locally,” added David. “There are so many different careers in the sector that don’t involve a hammer and a spanner.”

The project will provide careers for biologists, ornithologists, ecologists and geologists; skippers, boat crew, port staff, crane operators and divers; engineers, welders, electricians, technicians and logisticians; administrators and project managers.

“So much is involved in the movement of the platforms,” said David. “No Celtic Sea Port is ready as-is, so a multi-port approach is needed.” He added that Blue Gem Wind would be looking for local suppliers for the anchors and chains.

In answer to a question, David commented that if renewables were available at the moment, electricity bills would be cheaper.

A future-energy ready port

That evening, April 19, marked the first anniversary of Tom Sawyer’s role as CEO at the Port of Milford Haven, the largest Energy Port in Wales. Tom said that over the last year, the port has refocussed on its core purpose: ‘to safely and effectively operate the UK’s western energy gateway.’ Being stronger commercially enables them to support communities.

Pembroke Dock Town Council had criticised the Port, asking, “why are you not doing as much for us as for Milford Haven?” “Have a conversation with us,” is his reply. “We are not an emerald city on a hill - we have generations of families who work in the port. We really care about the communities.

“Pembroke Dock is being transformed into a multi-purpose future-energy ready port. The challenge is how to create a corridor of enjoyment to match what has been achieved over the past 30 years at Milford Haven.”

Tom explained that the Haven covers the whole area from St Anne’s Head to Haverfordwest, Lawrenny and Carew, and that the Port is actively interested in the coastal communities around the waterway. That is why the authority is pleased to support the upkeep of six pontoons for the next decade.

A virtual family, ‘the Davies family’, created from Pembrokeshire County Council data, illustrates the needs of the community. “We can keep putting football shirts on the kids whose parents can afford a football shirt,” said Tom, “or we can put food in the bellies of the children whose families can’t afford it. It’s not rocket science, creating a social conscience in the Port.”

  • Major developments taking place at Pembroke Port include:
  • On-demand fabrication facilities
  • New workboat berthing
  • Supersize slipway - ready by the end of this year
  • Expanded laydown and fabrication areas - ready in 2024
  • Offshore and floating wind array test areas - by 2025

Tom continued: “Work had to be stopped for a while when a badger was spotted sticking its head out of a sett. The badger was found to be a rare visitor.”

The timber pond, where they used to pickle the masts of the great ships of the realm, has been filled in, but the Sunderland Hangar Annexes have been preserved and will provide space for offices, storage and fabrication. “It’s all carefully controlled in terms of planning applications.”

According to Tom, the coalition of Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire as the Celtic Freeport “just makes sense.” They will unite to rise to the challenge of decarbonising south west Wales.

Assembly of major turbines would not be appropriate at Pembroke Port. The turbines for the Erebus Project have propellers spanning the width of the Cleddau Bridge, and at 265 metres high, they are over three-quarters of the height of the Shard skyscraper in London!

Tom foresees Pembroke Port’s role as a centre for early phase testing, fabricating anchors and anchor chains for Floating Wind platforms, high speed transfer vehicles and robotics. They are making preparations for 30 years of building - enough time for incomers to put down roots and invest in the community.

He then outlined some recent examples of the Port’s community input, including the Pembroke Dock Marine music video, shortlisted for an Arts and Business Award. A WAVE water safety event took place at Henry Tudor School, educating young people about the dangers of tombstoning, “which seems to be a rite of passage in Pembrokeshire.” The Port also hosted a careers visit of year 6 pupils from Pembroke Dock Community School, showcasing different maritime and port careers to inspire future generations - something which will be rolled out more in the future.

PR and Communications Executive Sara Richards is looking at apprenticeships, ensuring opportunities for scholarships go to those without all the advantages in life. Tom said: “A study shows that the Port of Milford Haven provides 4,000 people with employment. Where the law allows, we will always seek to encourage local. We have a strong affiliation with Pembrokeshire College, and we’re looking to do much more in those areas.

“Pembrokeshire College is one of those ‘free range’ businesses that get on with it, responding to needs and opportunities. Their Destination Renewables course is spot on. Sometimes in Pembrokeshire we don’t realise what we’ve got. We have some of the best maritime operators anywhere on the planet.”


The Port of Milford Haven and Port Talbot have been successful in their bid for a combined Celtic Freeport.

According to Tom Sawyer, the bid’s success was the result of extensive lobbying. Making the bid was a four-way combination of Milford Haven Port Authority, Pembrokeshire County Council, Associated British Ports of Port Talbot and Neath Port Talbot County Council.

The Freeport status means that little or no tax needs to be paid on imported raw materials or on finished goods exported overseas, encouraging economic activity.

Tom listed the following benefits of the Celtic Freeport:

  • The decarbonisation of Wales
  • A major contribution towards Net Zero (“We have lots of sea space and plenty of wind.”)
  • 16,000 new high quality jobs
  • Support for current industries
  • £5.5 billion of new investment
  • A boost to green skills programmes
  • Wales a manufacturing global leader in FLOW
  • Export opportunities created

“It will probably take a year to get through due diligence, detailed proposals and plans, securing the environment and protecting jobs,” added Tom. “Delivering sustainable and inclusive growth is a challenge taken on very willingly by the Port of Milford Haven.”