Subsea services provider N-Sea is benefiting from an asset-light business model and an openness to cooperation
Netherlands-based subsea services provider N-Sea has had to consider alternative business models to make it through the downturn.
Speaking at the Offshore Support Journal Subsea Conference in London on Monday 5 February, N-Sea survey lead Hans van Peet explained: “One of the things we decided to do was go asset-light.”
A number of drivers contributed to this decision, according to Mr Peet. The oversupply of assets that characterised much of the oil and gas industry was one, but a strong drive from oil and gas operators to move toward alternative and new ways of doing business also influenced the move. There was also a tendency in the offshore wind industry for risks to be pushed down to contractors, a situation that made it hard to add value for customers while at the same time keeping prices low, he added.
For N-Sea, moving to this asset-light model has afforded the company the flexibility to offer what Mr van Peet described as “fit-for-purpose solutions” to customers. He explained that the company now owns two long-term assets: a dive support vessel, and a bespoke survey vessel, which allow it to service both the spot market and long-term commitments.
Another key element that has helped this model work is a willingness to team up with specialist partners on solutions, some of which Mr van Peet showcased. When looking for partners, N-Sea focuses on improving data quality, optimising vessel time and reducing the number of personnel required offshore, he said.
One example of this is the combination of Force Technology Norway’s FiGS contactless sensor technology in conjunction with an N-Sea remotely-operated towed vehicle (ROTV) for cathodic protection surveys. This would traditionally be done with an ROV-mounted probe, Mr van Peet said, but by using an ROTV it was found a line could be surveyed in four to five months, an improvement of two or even three times an ROV’s survey speed.
N-Sea is also working with the University of Strathclyde Glasgow to automate the task of eventing inspection footage by flagging whether pipelines are exposed or buried. By automating this process, it can be carried out more quickly and accurately than if a human performed the task. Mr van Peet noted N-Sea is looking into applying the same technology to the task of identifying ordnance on the seabed.