NEW BEDFORD — The first wind turbine components arrived in the Port of New Bedford Wednesday afternoon on a nearly 500-foot heavy load carrier, sailing through the hurricane barrier without incident at around 4:50 p.m. and wowing those who watched the massive ship enter the harbor.

After days of travel across the Atlantic Ocean, the UHL Felicity arrived from Portugal, met by New Bedford Police boat escorts and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the New Bedford hurricane barrier.

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Small groups of curious onlookers and reporters watched from both the New Bedford and Fairhaven sides of the barrier gates as the blue-hulled carrier, with white tower components lying on top, glided into the harbor. It took about an hour after that for it to slowly back in — with the help of two tugboats — and dock at the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal. 

The Light for nearly two weeks has been tracking several vessels in the U.S. and Europe that are set to support the nation’s first commercial-scale wind farm, Vineyard Wind. With New Bedford serving as the construction and staging base, several barges, carriers and supply ships will be coming to the port in the next several months, some making repeated trips. 

Vessels working on the Vineyard Wind project will travel from from several areas in North America and Europe.

Earlier this week, a smaller supply ship, GO Liberty, arrived and docked at the MassCEC Marine Commerce Terminal, having departed from Louisiana, per a vessel tracking site. Some of the vessels will dock at the terminal, which through 2024 will support the storage, preservation and partial assembly of 62 General Electric wind turbine components for the Vineyard Wind project about 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. 

That means more than 100 barge trips in and out of the port, with frequency expected to pick up over the summer when seafaring conditions are better, according to Vineyard Wind’s CEO Klaus Moeller. 


“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said New Bedford resident Tim Hart, who took in the moment from the barrier. The ship arrived sooner than expected, so it transited the gates before he could walk closer. He pointed to the workers standing at the terminal in their neon construction safety gear, noting it’s an industry providing jobs for people. 

Don Burton, a campaign manager for WindWorks with Bristol Community College, said this moment has turned something abstract into something real: “Seeing something makes it very real.”

The arrival of the turbine components is the “clearest manifestation yet of what we’ve been working on for more than a decade,” to position the Port of New Bedford as a leader in offshore wind, said Mayor Jon Mitchell. 

“We’ll see the transition pieces and the blades in the next several weeks, and then later on in the summer the nacelles,” he said. 

Anatomy of a turbine

Credit: Kellen Riell / The New Bedford Light

Rachel Pachter, chief development officer for Vineyard Wind, standing atop the barrier with binoculars in hand, called this a major turning point. She said this is just the first of many shipments that will be coming to the port. 

Because of the Jones Act, a law passed in 1920, there will be a mix of foreign-flagged and U.S.-flagged ships working on the project. Under the law, only U.S.-flagged and built ships are permitted to move cargo, such as turbine parts, from one point in the United States to another, including between ports. 

But currently, there are no U.S.-flagged and built offshore installation vessels (the first one is set to be complete by next year). Because of this, Vineyard Wind will use U.S.-flagged barges from Foss Maritime (the same company building a wind terminal in New Bedford with local investors) to ferry the turbine parts to the lease site, where a foreign-flagged installation vessel will be waiting. 

Courtney Bradbury, director for business development at Foss Maritime, noted, however, that even without the Jones Act, the barges would still be needed as the hurricane barrier in New Bedford and infrastructure in some Eastern U.S. ports would physically preclude existing offshore installation vessels from entry as they are too large. 

Under this framework, Foss feeder barges will take turns entering the Port of New Bedford, loading up with components for a single turbine, and exiting to the lease site. 

When a feeder barge arrives at the lease site, it will meet an installation vessel, which will be equipped with a large crane to grab the turbine components from the barge. 

The Foss barges, each 400 feet long and 100 feet wide, will be accompanied by two tugboats — one at bow and one at stern — as well as escorts from New Bedford and Fairhaven harbormasters to ensure safe transit of the barges through the 150-foot barrier opening. 

Simulations of the Foss barges entering and exiting the New Bedford hurricane barrier, respectively. Source: Foss Maritime

“It’s going to be super exciting … I keep reminding everyone how tall these towers are on the barges, so I think seeing those towers come through New Bedford will be an impressive sight,” Bradbury told The Light. 

Initially, the feeder barge transits through the hurricane barrier are only permitted during daytime hours, when wind speed is below 15 knots and when visibility is greater than one nautical mile, according to records from the Army Corps.

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

As of last week, the American-built barges were being outfitted in Antwerp, Belgium, and are set to arrive to the Port of New Bedford in mid-June, Bradbury said. Moeller of Vineyard Wind told reporters last month that the New Bedford terminal can hold parts for fewer than 20 full turbines out of the 62, and that he’d like to see about 10 turbines readied in New Bedford before they ship out for offshore installation.

Another heavy load carrier is en route to Canada from the Netherlands. That vessel, the RollDock Sky, will also be supporting the project, per the New Bedford Port Authority, and might arrive in New Bedford next week.

Editor’s note: This story was updated during the afternoon and evening of May 24, 2023, to include new information.

Email Anastasia E. Lennon at

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