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08 December 2021 The on-line newspaper devoted to the world of transports 01:48 GMT+1






The offshore and specialised ships markets
 in 2004

 

Offshore support vessels 
Ice-breakers
Underwater construction and installation – IRM Market
The seismic market 
Drilling market

Production market (surface systems)
Dredging
Conclusion 


The year 2004 will remain unique in the history of the oil and gas industry for two reasons: first, world oil demand (excluding gas) reached its highest level ever and second, the price of oil also registered a peak at around $ 50 per barrel.

The offshore sector at last is feeling the initial benefits of the surge in prices and oil companies are again targeting to increase their proven reserves of oil and gas. About $ 125 billion was spent on exploration and oil production in 2004. This level, comparable to that achieved in 2001, should increase to $ 135 billion in 2005. This figure excludes Russian and Chinese projects, but includes the Kashagan and Kazakhstan projects in the Caspian Sea. This drive will be a stimulus in the first instance to the development of traditional offshore equipment in shallow waters, but also to very deep-sea offshore equipment, which comprise a number of drilling units used at the limit of their capacities. Geophysical offshore exploration will see a certain stability, even with some expansion in India. The increase in offshore drilling expenses in 2004 illustrates the upward trend and the best indicator of this growth being the percentage of jack-up rigs operating, which has gone from 75 % at the beginning of the year to 90 % at the end.


 
Kaori
Port tug, delivered by President Shipyard in 2004, operated by CMC Noumea (New Caledonia)
Offshore Support Vessels

Most of the major companies in this branch of the offshore market decided this year to order a large number of Platform Supply Vessels (PSV) as well as Anchor Handling Tug-Supply (AHTS). The order pattern was mainly:

• at the beginning of the year, for PSVs in the size range of 3 000 tdw or more, • for mid-size AHTS, with 60 to 120 t bollard pull, dynamic positioning and equipped with fire-fighting systems.

The majority of orders were placed with Far Eastern shipyards, currently favoured for their cheap labour costs as well as the weakness of the dollar. The other significant trend of this market is the halt on the ever-growing size of PSVs and of the engine power of AHTS.

Our explanation for these phenomena is triple: there are few orders coming from Norwegian owners as the North Sea market has remained flat for most part of 2004, oil companies’ needs have been concentrated on production in deep waters and finally, owners are following the general movement towards cost cutting.

It is worth noting an inversion of trend during the course of the year for Norwegian shipyards, which have filled their orderbooks, even though they were limited by their Polish or Romanian sub-contractors production capacities to build the hulls.

This general demand from charterers to reduce “logistics” costs in the exploration/production process, passed onto owners, has resulted in an effort to standardise ships with more orders for series and the research into more optimised designs coming also from the Far East. In this respect, the diesel-electric engine solutions mainly developed by Norwegian manufacturers incorporate true advantages, particularly in relationship with dynamic positioning equipment compatibility, which is now a standard feature on most new ships, for a reduced price.

The choice of diesel-electric propulsion, combined with the installation of azimutal propulsion sets, has also contributed to reduce construction costs by simplifying the hull forms.

In 2004 both PSVs and AHTS delivered by the yards found employment, even if charter rates were not always at levels hoped for by the owners.

The North Sea market was the catalyst in the recovery of the offshore market. As an example, an AHTS of 200 t bollard pull chartered out on the spot market at the beginning of the year at 15,000 $ per day, obtained 45,000 $ per day in December. It was the same for the Gulf of Mexico where the employment rates of vessels finally saw an increase after four very poor years. Egypt, the Middle and Far East also saw chartering rates on the rise by employing more powerful AHTS.

At the end of 2004 several important owners no longer had any modern units to charter out, which leads us to be relatively optimistic as to the market’s ability to absorb the large number of PSVs and AHTS that are due for delivery in 2005.

There has been a rapid increase in the already substantial fleets operated by Singapore owners. As an example we can cite Jaya, which had 21 AHTS, 2 PSVs and 6 other ships under construction at the end of 2004. Fleets that are in the hands of Middle East owners have also seen a significant development with, for instance, Maridive in Egypt which controls nearly 50 ships including 7 under construction in India.

Western owners have started or boosted their fleet renewal programmes.

Groupe Bourbon has ordered 8 PSVs (GPA 670 type) and 4 AHTS (Conan Wu type of 70 and 80 tons bollard pull) in China. There are also 4 AHTS (120 t bollard pull, Conan Wu design) with Keppel Singmarine in Singapore, as well as 2 fast supply ships in aluminium based on an innovative French concept (Mauric design) with the Piriou shipyard. The Bourbon Group is continuing to expand and hopes to conquer new markets.
 


 
Bourbon Helios
Platform supply vessel, GPA design, 3,300 dwt, to be delivered by Zhejiang in 2005, will be operated by Groupe Bourbon Offshore division

We can mention the example of Tidewater, which has ordered 8 AHTS, 4 PSVs and half a dozen of smaller units. They have ordered these ships with the intention of replacing some older units and thus avoid important expenses to keep them in proper running condition and getting them re-classified.

Edison Chouest Offshore has ordered 7 offshore vessels and 4 fast supply ships.

In 2004, Seabulk Offshore contracted with Labroy shipyard of Singapore 8 AHT/AHTS mainly for the West African market.

Swire Pacific Offshore has 9 AHTS on order in the Far East, of which 7 of the UT 780 type - 4,800 bhp with Labroy.

Delivery of new units ordered in Asia are spread out until 2006.

Beside these PSV and AHTS fleets, we have seen a noticeable increase in the demand for fast craft, over 20 knots, built of aluminium, 40 metres long or more, designed to carry dozens of passengers and some cargo on deck. In the future, under deck bulk capacities are also being envisaged. At last a new market has emerged concerning small, specific units aimed at providing security protection for offshore oil fields capable of carrying armed men aboard.

In addition, several governments, particularly in Europe, have launched programmes to renew or to complete their fleets for assistance or intervention as well as anti-pollution surveillance ships. These building programmes are benefiting essentially European shipyards.
 


 
Ice-breakers

The opening of the Russian market, giving access to the Arctic, from the Barents Sea to the Bering Straits, has stimulated orders for the offshore markets, but also to serve the exports terminals of the “on-shore” production.

Amongst these we can mention:

 • Swire Pacific / Primorsk with an order for three UT 758 of 90 meters, ice-breaker, at Aker Yards for 500 million Norwegian kroner. • Rieber Shipping / Primorsk with an order for a ice-breaker / tug, at Aker Langsten for 351 million Norwegian kroner. • Sevmorneftegaz / Fesco with an order for two ice-breakers at the Havyard Leirvik shipyard for 53 million euros.
 

Underwater construction and installation – IRM Market (Inspection Repairs and Maintenance)

The year 2004 was characterised by a marked revival in the underwater construction activity and also with the happy resolution of financial crisis of Stolt Offshore, who managed to transform its debts into capital and was able to win contracts at more favourable conditions. The Stolt Nielsen group sold its interests in Stolt Offshore thus ending an historic participation in the sector. McDermott has strengthened its presence with an expansion programme.

This industry has continued its consolidation of which one of the stages was the repurchase by Siem Industries Inc. of the remaining 50 % share of Subsea 7 previously controlled by Halliburton. It appears also that Torch Offshore is in a particularly precarious situation and is likely to dispose of a number of ships especially the ‘Midnight Express’.

European underwater contractors are in a better shape than their American rivals, with the exception of Cal Dive and Global Industries. The revival of so-called traditional offshore activities in shallow water in the Gulf of Mexico, should help contribute to their improved situation.

The start of large installation projects in West Africa, Egypt, and Brazil is helping to bolster activity, to the point that some operators are announcing that they have almost none of their main ships available until 2008. The Far East, traditionally in low profile, will also absorb some ships in 2005. Subsea 7 has made a remarkable break-through in West Africa, a market up until now shared essentially between Technip Offshore, Saibos and Stolt Offshore.

The possibility to have the right vessel at the right time is a key to success in the underwater construction market, but it should be appreciated that the fleet is ageing. In practice, with the exception of several units coming into service at the initiative of owners of supply vessels, such as the ‘Boa Deep C 1’, the ‘Normand Cutter’ (a converted cable-layer chartered to Sonsub) the barge-laying ‘Jascon 5’ and the construction of the future ‘Normand Installer’ (a joint project between SBM and Solstad), no major project has been launched or realised in 2004.

Consequently 2005 should see the launching of several significant projects by the Majors, namely large laying and installation ships (150 m x 30 m or more) capable of laying pipes of 16 to18 inches at a depth of over 2,000 metres. The major concern will be the response capability of the shipbuilding market, which has never seen such a level of activity.

The recovery of the underwater construction market both in the area of new developments and in the area of the maintenance of new fields, has logically helped sustain and stimulate the activity of supply vessels such as the MPSV (Multi-Purpose Supply Vessels) fitted with a strong lifting capacity (more than 100 tons at sea-level). They are also employed in light construction works and more generally in the IRM market of which the main players remain the owners of supply ships mentioned in the previous chapter.
 

The seismic market

The four principal operators, WesternGeco, Veritas, Petroleum Geo Service (PGS) and Compagnie Générale de Géophysique (CGG) have also benefited from a surge in activity. Hardened pessimists have been obliged to revise their opinion about the future of this activity, which particularly suffered over the past four years. CGG seems to have abandoned its ambition to merge with PGS after its offer was declined by the latter’s shareholders. Nonetheless, a new consolidation would benefit this sector. At the start of 2005, operators are working already on the programme for 2006, which is exceptional given the average duration of seismic acquisition contracts.

Technologies continue to improve the quality but also the range of seismic work, since it is now possible to detect oil or gas up to a depth of 6,000 meters. These gains will incite operators to improve their marine logistics globally and probably to charter more specific supply ships for longer periods.
 

Drilling market

The offshore drilling industry is undergoing a real change in situation which began at the start of 2004, with an increased level of utilisation of jack-up rigs to drill in shallow waters.

At the end of 2004, few units of the 300 feet jack-up rigs type remained available in the short term. Freight rates for deep-water drilling rigs are heading toward the $ 300,000 per day level. The second generation semi-submersibles, which drill at 1,500/2,000 feet depths, are benefiting from the rebound in the North Sea market and obtain more than $ 100,000 per day for short term contracts.

The industry continues to gravitate around the fleets controlled by the six American majors, Pride, Diamond, Ensco, GlobalSantaFé (GSF), Noble, Transocean and by four competitors of substantially smaller size namely Stena Drilling, Maersk Drilling, Atwood and Rowan. By and large, the drilling companies dedicated 2004 to consolidating their balance sheets. Pride should probably sell some supplementary assets, with a view to be in a better position for new investments over the coming 2005 / 2006 period. As to GSF, they anticipated the change in the market and fixed four units which are being completed in Singapore (2 semi-submersibles and 2 jack-ups).

Opportunities to convert, modernise and build new drilling rigs will be possible as soon as the oil companies offer long term charter opportunities. It is worth mentioning the order of three jack-up rigs in Singapore on a speculative basis by a group of Norwegian investors, as well as another unit ordered by the Norwegian Odfjell.

In this sector, the Keppel Fels group plays a predominant part, which is based on its world-wide network of yards for repairs and shipbuilding, on its capacity to offer the market standard jack-up rigs, also adaptable to specific needs for drilling, and finally on its role as a speculative investor.

The Sembawang group for its part maintains a share of the market due to the specific expertise of PPL Shipyard. Finally Chinese builders, such as Dalian, have emerged but remain principally concentrated on their domestic market.
 



 
Production market (surface systems)

This year has seen Stolt Offshore shed itself of engineering, construction project, and integrated production systems by the sale of its affiliate Paragon. The leaders, who are Saipem and Technip, obtained some prestigious but high resource-consuming contracts, linked to developments in West Africa but also in the Persian Gulf (Qatar project) and the Caspian Sea (Kashagan phase 1).

Despite the small number of contracts recently awarded (of which SBM with Petrobras of Brazil and Bergesen with Woodside in Mauritania), the number of tenders open or due to come out in 2005 for leasing FPSOs has considerably increased. These tenders are primarily related to West Africa, Brazil, South East Asia and Australia. These projects require storage ship hulls of two million barrels, except for the last two zones, which regularly require Suezmax size units. In the second-hand market, which is somewhat overvalued, it is obvious that the number of available ships has become considerably reduced. In addition, oil companies are more and more reluctant to accept hulls over 20 years old. As from now, charterers of FPSOs are proposing either to use modern ships or to build new hulls to meet their standards, in line with the order placed by Modec (Mitsui group) and awarded to Samsung.
 

The dredging market

From the point of view of contractors, the sector has continued to consolidate. 2004 saw the final absorption of Ballast-Ham by Van Oord. Despite a difficult context due to the halt of the huge Singaporian projects, a revival in world demand in volume is expected for 2005. Current projects in the Persian Gulf, China and the Sakhalin Islands have continued to keep the contractors busy.

Jan de Nul is pursuing his modernisation programme and the expansion of his fleet. It’s the only Major that has built up his investments in an original and audacious strategy, by ordering small sized dredgers in China. These orders have demonstrated Jan de Nul’s know-how in engineering and project management.

In France, DTM has confirmed the order of a 2,200 cbm sand-dredger with the Barkmeijer shipyard in the Netherlands, for delivery in 2005. GIE Dragages-Ports has concentrated on restructuring and rationalising its fleet. It should confirm in 2005 an order for a 700 cbm grab hopper dredger fitted with a dredge pipe.

Finally, there has been the U-turn of the IHC group, which has finally abandoned its shipyards, including the famous IHC Holland, designer and builder of dredgers. The expertise of Dutch dredging specialists tends to be concentrated in the engineering work and the manufacturing of dredging equipment.
 


 
Goenisio Barroso
Anchor-handling tug supply, delivered in 2004 by Fels Setal, operated by Delba Maritima (Brazil)
Conclusion

A lot of uncertainty has been removed by the outcome of the American elections. In addition the forecast is for a new increase in world oil and gas demand.

Oil companies today possess very important financial capacities. Exploration has been considerably reduced these last few years, whereas the increase in proven reserves is now a strategic target.

These circumstances augur well for the offshore industry as a whole for the year 2005 and should apply to all geographical zones.
 



Shipping and Shipbuilding Markets in 2004

I N D E X



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