Tidewater was awarded the Offshore Support Journal Shipowner of the Year Award at the 2020 Offshore Support Journal Conference & Awards.
The award, sponsored by V Ships Offshore, was presented to Tidewater chief executive Quentin Kneen by V Group Offshore group director Alessandro Ciocchi. Tidewater was the winner from a shortlist that also included Østensjø Rederi and Esvagt.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Kneen paid tribute to Tidewater’s employees and dedicated the award to them.
US-based Tidewater was one of a number of OSV companies that applied for Chapter XI bankruptcy to restructure, and Mr Kneen acknowledged the challenges Tidewater’s employees have faced.
"Anytime you put a company through the transformation that Tidewater has gone through, it is about the people. I’ve got people who have put their lives into Tidewater," he said.
Following its US$340M all-equity acquisition of Gulfmark in November 2018, Tidewater emerged in 2019 as the largest OSV owner, with a fleet of 253 vessels and market capitalisation close to US$1Bn.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, the company continued to rightsize its fleet. In 2018, Tidewater scrapped or sold 41 older vessels and has since continued scrapping older tonnage and acquiring newer vessels at reasonable prices. Tidewater has also made investments in its fleet to attract charterers, such as the battery-hybrid upgrade to platform supply vessel Bailey Tide.
The hybrid upgrade, currently in progress and expected to be complete by May 2020, will also reduce operational costs by cutting the vessel’s fuel consumption and improve onboard safety.
Mr Kneen took over as chief executive in September 2019. Speaking at the International Workboat Show in December 2019, he said a turnaround in the OSV industry was strongly dependent on consolidation. Mr Kneen emphasised that any consolidation undertaken by Tidewater would have to make financial sense.
He said it would not make sense for the company to merge with a company with a high debt level. The company has the industry’s healthiest balance sheet, he said, and has no intent of slowing down in its drive to improve.
“We will use the improving industry fundamentals to get day rates back to where they need to be to properly compensate our capital providers and we will continue to lead the industry in recycling and capital discipline,” he said.
Also central to the company’s transformation will be cutting “bureaucracy” to speed the decision-making process and empowering those “closest to the vessel to make decisions and take ownership”, according to Mr Kneen. To support that process, Tidewater has been redesigning and implementing a new shore-based information management system.
“I am a strong believer in leveraging technology to create standardisation and scalability and to reduce what we refer to internally as ‘administrivia and clutter’," Mr Kneen said.
A dedication to creating efficiency with technology extends across both financial information and ship-based management systems at Tidewater, Mr Kneen said, noting that he believed these “transformational changes” to the company’s structure and business model are necessary to compete in an offshore oil and gas industry and OSV market that has been fundamentally altered by a prolonged downcycle.
If past is prologue, Mr Kneen said, “Tidewater has been successful in the past, focusing on utilisation and a price-taking philosophy that generated sufficient cash flows to keep the business running.”