Offshore Support Vessel Market: Opportunities and Challenges

The global offshore support vessel market was valued at USD 19.21 Billion in 2017; it is projected to reach USD 25.66 Billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 5.04%, from 2018 to 2023.

The global offshore support vessel market was valued at USD 19.21 Billion in 2017; it is projected to reach USD 25.66 Billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 5.04%, from 2018 to 2023.

Aging offshore infrastructure leading to replacement and decommissions

The aging offshore infrastructure in the North Sea region is expected to provide new growth opportunities for the offshore support vessel market. According to Clyde and Co. LLP, in the next 30 years, the North Sea region’s 475 platforms, 10,000 km of pipeline and 5,000 wells, are expected to be decommissioned. This is mainly due to the maturing of oil fields in the region; also, it has an anticipated cost of USD 41 billion. Globally, there are approximately 7,000 offshore structures along the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, the largest regions for offshore decommissioning. Each oil & gas field has a life cycle of 30–40 years, which can be divided into primary and secondary phases. The primary phase involves the extraction of hydrocarbon reserves using natural processes. The secondary phase includes the use of modern technologies such as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), artificial lifts, and injecting water to improve the reservoir output. Operating companies use these technologies over time to increase production, though production volumes are higher in the primary phase. An oil & gas field is considered mature when production declines significantly following primary recovery methods. Further, the operating companies have to take a decision regarding the decommissioning of their fields. For instance, Shell announced the decommissioning of its Brent field in the North Sea, which is considered the biggest decommissioning project in the region. The Brent field was discovered in 1971, and during the early 1990s, it supplied 13% of the UK’s oil and 10% of the UK’s gas needs. In its lifetime, the Brent field has generated over USD 25 million in tax revenue. Infrastructure is an essential part of any industry, and it plays a vital role in the offshore oil & gas industry. The installation of infrastructures such as pipelines, platforms, rigs, and conductors is one of the most complex phases of oil & gas production. The infrastructure is built with an expected lifecycle. On completion of the lifecycle, the infrastructure should be dismantled or decommissioned. The decommissioning of the mature oil & gas fields would require offshore support vessels to aid in activities such as top-side decommissioning and offshore platform removal. The aging offshore infrastructure due to maturing oil & gas fields is expected to provide new revenue-making opportunities during the forecast period for the players in the offshore support vessel market.

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High operational risks

The offshore industry involves high operational risks. These support vessels carry hazardous and noxious liquid in bulk. For instance, the back loading and carriage of hazardous oil-contaminated cargo, known as “slops” or “wet bulk waste,” can cause fatalities, despite industry guidelines. These can also cause environmental risks, and hence, the offshore support vessel market must abide by certain policies of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The risks associated with working offshore can be mainly attributed to time and season. Moreover, geographical distribution and sea conditions can put the ship and crew in high-risk situations. A study by ResearchGate, “A statistical review of the risk associated with offshore support vessel/platform encounters in UK waters” shows that safety culture in terms of good seamanship by vessel masters is probably responsible for mitigating the magnitude of many of the impacts that do occur, and that there is a need for improvement in safety performance. The issues pertaining to the human element, the availability and reliability of data, the risk criteria, and safety culture play a crucial role in the context of marine and offshore risk assessment. 

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Key Players:

Some of the leading players in the offshore support vessel market, on the basis of their recent developments and other strategic industrial activities, are Bourbon (France), Seacor Marine (US), Swire Group (Hong Kong), Tidewater (US), Gulfmark Offshore, Inc. (US), Havila Shipping (Norway), Hornbeck Offshore Services (US), The Maersk (Denmark), and Siem Offshore (Norway), among others.

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