DRILLING BEGETS RIGS AND RIGS BEGET OSVS

April cover shows UT 776 E Worldwide, offshore drilling is up and world yards are seeing a steady flow of orders for rigs. Rigs and platforms, of course, require the support of offshore service vessels. So, where's the accompanying surge in OSV orders? The good news is that OSV dayrates have been improving.

"Since May 2004," commented Todd Hornbeck, president and CEO of Horneck Offshore Services (HOS), "oil companies have increased their emphasis on replacing reserves through the drill bit and are devoting significant capital to deepwater, ultra-deepwater and deep-shelf oilfield projects."

That helped HOS achieve buoyant revenues, in its first year as a publicly quoted company. In the fourth quarter, HOS' OSV segment maintained close to 100% utilization while further increasing fleet average dayrates by roughly $800 over the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, HOS's average OSV dayrate was $10,926 compared to $9,769 for the same period of 2003.

MEGA MINI For shipyards serving the OSV sector, of course, the big question is when better day rates could lead to the placing of more newbuilding orders. Bollinger Shipyards, Inc. and Bordelon Marine, Inc., both of Lockport La., recently signed a contract for two Mega Mini Supply Boats. Contract terms were not disclosed.

In 2001, Bordelon Marine took delivery of three of the highly successful Bollinger 145-foot mini supply boats, which expanded the Bordelon fleet to six vessels.

Now, Bordelon is taking the opportunity to grow its fleet by adding vessels that it views as the future for the production, support and standby requirements in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The new vessels will be 163-feet long with a 36-feet beam and a depth of 11.5-feet. Light draft is 5.4 feet and maximum draft is 9.7 feet. Liquid mud capacity is 51,660 gallons, methanol capacity is 44,600 gallons and fuel oil capacity 57,200 gallons. Deck cargo capacity will be 391.2 metric tons, utilizing a deck that will measure 110 feet by 30 feet.

The vessels are classed ABS Load Line, DP, USCG Sub Chapter L, OSV. Production is underway at Bollinger's Lockport facility and delivery of the first vessel is planned for October 2005, with the second vessel following 45 days later.

Will other Gulf operators follow Bordelon's lead and get their check books out again? One company that is well placed to assess what is going on is Gulfport, Miss. deck machinery manufacturer Coastal Marine Equipment, Inc., whose products are widely used by Gulf area yards and operators.

According to Coastal Marine president Mark Scairono, about 90 percent of the company's present business is coming from OPA 90 barges.

"We do have a couple of anchor windlasses for OSVs, but the OSV market is only just now beginning to show signs of new activity," says Scairono. However, "inquiries for equipment intended for new OSVs and AHTSs has been on the increase for the past couple of months. Talk in the industry seems to be optimistic that some increased level of newbuilding is on the horizon." We asked whether any of those inquiries have been for any types of new, larger, or higher rated equipment that would indicate operators are thinking in terms of bigger boats?

"Its been mixed," Scairono told us. "Some inquiries are for the same basic vessels built during the last build phase; 220 ft to 260 ft OSVs and PSVs. On the other hand, we've had inquiries for large AHTSs which were not a big part of the last build phase, at least in the U. S. Flag vessels."

Scairono says Coastal Marine Equipment is "very optimistic that this year will be a 'break-out' year. The new barge building is still going strong, barge conversion is picking up and, as long as the day rates and utilization of the current fleet of OSVs/AHTSs/Crew boats stays strong, we anticipate some new construction of OSVs/AHTSs and crew boats during this year."

One place where some of those OSV's could well be built is in the former Halter Marine yard in Gulfport, now owned, though not used, by VT Halter Marine. The Mississippi Sun Herald last month reported Bill Hessell, interim director of the Harrison County Development Commission, as saying that Edison Chouest Offshore plans to buy the property and open a subsidiary operation, North American Gulfport, which would build offshore service vessels for ECO. Chouest plans a $40 million investment in the property and would hire up to 450 employees over three years.

In Gulfport, says the Sun Herald, the company would build vessels from 280 to 350 feet in length. If power lines can be moved, vessels of more than 500 feet might be constructed.

That would certainly seem to indicate that Chouest plans to continue what it calls an "aggressive expansion program," with plans for 13 new vessels and options for 14 more already announced, including a number of vessels building in Norway for Island Offshore, in which Chouest is a partner.

Norwegian yards, in fact have been seeing an upsurge in OSV orders. Aker Yards, and in particular its Aker Brevik yard, have booked a slew of OSV orders, keeping the prices competitive by bringing in hulls from its Braila, Romania, yard. Interestingly though, the hull for Aker Brevik's most recently ordered OSV-a UT755LN platform supply vessel for Island Offshore-will be built in Vyborg, Russia.

The UT-Design series, incidentally, now includes a new UT 770-series of platform supply vessels. Low resistance hullforms and efficient propulsion systems reduce fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions.

"A clear requirement has been to make working and living conditions on board as safe and comfortable as possible," says Sigmund Borgundvaag, chief designer in UT-Design.

An example of these next generation vessels is the UT 776E. This is a 93 m long PSV with a deadweight of about 5,000 tons. Over 3,000 tons of cargo can be carried on the 1,040 m2 deck. It can transport pipes, liquid cargoes and cement/barite, and it is designed for safety standby and oil recovery.

Rolls-Royce acquired the UT series when it acquired the former Ulstein Group. It did not, however, get the Ulstein shipyard. The yard's design group is now free from a "do not compete" agreement and as, Ulstein Design, is offering its own portfolio of innovative designs-including the A102 anchor handler, the first of which has been ordered by Groupe Bourbon.

The contract includes an option for a second vessel. The order follows last month's delivery by Ulstein of the platform supply vessel Bourbon Topaz. Ulstein is currently building its sister ship, the Bourbon Peridot (and, since the print issue of this feature, has bagged an even more interesting order plus option from Bourbon!) ML

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