The cost of chartering subsea vessels for use in the offshore wind sector is increasing as demand picks up in the offshore oil and gas sector. The way vessels are contracted and what is expected of them is also changing.
Speaking at the 2019 Offshore Wind Journal Conference in London on 5 February, F3O Offshore Services managing director David Nielsen told delegates that “everything has changed” in the market for service operations vessels (SOVs).
“Prices have doubled,” said Mr Nielsen. As the oil and gas market has tightened so the number of subsea vessels available for offshore wind work has declined. Typically, offshore wind charters require a vessel with accommodation for 80-100 people and a 250-tonne crane.
“Although prices are much higher than they were, offshore wind companies are still chartering vessels,” Mr Nielsen said. “They are willing to pay higher rates.”
Acta Marine Wind Services general manager commercial offshore Simon Anink said the nature of the relationship between offshore wind companies and vessel owners is also changing. Mr Anink said the market was seeing more and more turnkey contracts, and much greater use of key performance indicators. Acta Marine operates purpose-built SOVs rather than subsea vessels adapted for that role. “Charterers are moving from paying for a vessel to paying for a service,” he told delegates.
Damen Shipyard Group business development manager offshore wind Peter Robert agreed with Mr Anink and said that the market is moving towards performance contracting. He said this means it is more important than ever to be able to predict the ‘workability’ of a vessel on a particular offshore wind site. He said this is not only a question of how a ship would perform on an offshore windfarm but how that vessel would perform when fitted with different offshore access systems. Another trend in the SOV market he highlighted is vessel sharing, with a single vessel working across more than one windfarm.
In a panel discussion on the walk-to-work market, Uptime International sales and business development director Bjørnar Huse said the level of performance expected of gangways is evolving all the time. “Gangways are getting bigger, they are capable of lifting more equipment, but the main focus of development now is on automation and the use of ‘intelligent gangways’ that are less dependent on a ‘man in the loop’ to operate them. “A computer can handle anomalies and make gangway operation safer, more reliable and dependable,” he said.
Mr Nielsen concluded that he expected that the cost of chartering vessels would continue to increase and that the market would continue to tighten.