Fatigue damage on wind turbines is mainly caused by stochastic loading originating from turbulence. While onshore sites display large differences in terrain topology, and thereby also in turbulence conditions, offshore sites are far more homogeneous, as the majority of them are likely to be associated with shallow water areas. However, despite this fact, specific recommendations on offshore turbulence intensities, applicable for fatigue design purposes, are lacking in the present IEC code. This article presents specific guidelines for such loading. These guidelines are based on the statistical analysis of a large number of wind data originating from two Danish shallow water offshore sites. The turbulence standard deviation depends on the mean wind speed, upstream conditions, measuring height and thermal convection. Defining a population of turbulence standard deviations, at a given measuring position, uniquely by the mean wind speed, variations in upstream conditions and atmospheric stability will appear as variability of the turbulence standard deviation. Distributions of such turbulence standard deviations, conditioned on the mean wind speed, are quantified by fitting the measured data to logarithmic Gaussian distributions. By combining a simple heuristic load model with the parametrized conditional probability density functions of the turbulence standard deviations, an empirical offshore design turbulence intensity is determined. For pure stochastic loading (as associated with standstill situations), the design turbulence intensity yields a fatigue damage equal to the average fatigue damage caused by the distributed turbulence intensity. If the stochastic loading is combined with a periodic deterministic loading (as in the normal operating situation), the proposed design turbulence intensity is shown to be conservative. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.