Owners of small fleets of offshore support vessels (OSVs) should pool their assets and collaborate in gaining charters to compete with the major operators.
They should outsource the marketing of vessels, whether they are ready for operation or in warm layup, to take advantage of any upturn in demand.
This was a key message from Anglo-Eastern Group managing director for offshore Douglas Lang at Riviera Maritime Media’s Annual Offshore Support Journal Conference. “The best strategy for smaller owners is to collaborate so they can punch above their weight,” he said.
Mr Lang also explained some of the barriers that challenge vessel operators when they consider bringing their assets out of layup including rising reactivation costs and the inability to raise finance.
“Larger players can afford swing vessels, but smaller owners struggle with the costs,” he continued. “Owners need to be looking at term chartering. They need a business case as it is a big undertaking.”
He explained that OSV demand will be different to the previous upcycle as rigs need fewer anchor handlers for positioning and mobilisation, design requirements will have evolved, there is more use of subsea tie-backs in new developments and new technology has been adopted.
“Owners should find niches in requirements,” said Mr Lang. They can look at other sectors such as requirements in decommissioning, renewables and repair and maintenance markets. However, they should also consider other business alternatives such as merging with other players to become larger entities that can compete."
Tidewater merged with GulfMark in 2018 and Tidewater vice president for human resources David Darling explained how it managed human resource challenges during this corporate restructuring.
He said internal and external communications were vital in engaging with the workforce. “Silence is the enemy,” he exclaimed. “It is important to find out what seafarers need and retain employees through the merger.”
There were many changes and office closures, five so far, after the merger began. “It was a shock to the system,” said Mr Darling. “It is therefore important to define why the merger makes sense and why it is happening.”
There were culture and process differences between the two companies that merged into one. Mr Darling said many of the pre-merger goals had been exceeded but the challenges are integrating the two systems.