THE first spades have gone in the ground to start work on a £10million state-of-the-art windfarm base.

Hutchison Ports hosted a ground-breaking ceremony at Harwich International Port to mark the official start of work on the new operations and maintenance base for Galloper Offshore Windfarm.

Construction is expected to take about 12 months and create 120 jobs, both direct and indirect.

It will be home to a team of 60 staff who operate and maintain the 353 megawatt wind farm.

Mark Seaman, finance director of Hutchison Ports, said: “The base represents the next logical step in the development of Harwich International as a major centre for the offshore sector.

“Our strategic location, providing sheltered, lock-free, facilities close to the North Sea is ideal for offshore support activities.

“Having already acted as the construction base for a number of windfarm developments, the new base will provide a purpose-built facility around which further opportunities in the offshore energy sector can be progressed over the next few years.”

Galloper general manager Guy Middleton said: “The ground-breaking is a symbolic but significant milestone as it has been quite a journey for us to first select the location of the base and then take it through the onshore and offshore planning consent to now be at the stage where construction is under way.”

The base will include a 24/7 control room to monitor and manage all windfarm activity, a purpose-built pontoon for the crew transfer vessels that take workers offshore daily, a gym plus warehousing, and office facilities.