Clarksons Platou, the world’s largest shipbroker, is on a mission to bring oil and gas expertise to the offshore wind industry and explain developers’ requirements to the oil and gas supply chain
In April 2017, Clarksons Platou confirmed that it has consolidated its renewables experts into a dedicated global division to provide shipbroking, market intelligence and commercial services for the rapidly growing offshore renewables market.
The division, with specialists in London, Aberdeen, Oslo, Houston, Singapore, Shanghai and soon Hamburg, is the outcome of a strategic review underway since the merger of Clarksons plc and RS Platou ASA in 2015. The company is the world’s largest vessel broker with almost 1,400 staff in 49 offices located across 21 countries worldwide.
The review identified a gap in the offshore renewables market for global broking services that could match developers and their suppliers with the right mix of vessels to reduce risk and increase value throughout a windfarm’s lifecycle. The gap has emerged as the global offshore wind market has grown, with a solid stream of projects expanding in size and scale, complexity and geographic spread.
The increasingly interdependent relationship between the maturing offshore wind market and the oil and gas sector was in part also the impetus for the launch of Clarksons Platou’s renewables division.
“Beyond their harsh marine environments and being in the business of harvesting energy and getting it to the people, both sectors require bespoke technically advanced vessels today and at the same time need to understand where their suppliers are likely to be in the future,” Frederik Colban-Andersen, Clarksons Platou’s divisional director offshore renewables explained. “When offshore wind got started, the industry was focused on what were really nearshore windfarms, but that has changed. Originally, the requirements for vessels were fairly easily met, but operating in a farshore environment, on a much larger scale, has changed the industry.”
Almost 12 gigawatts (GW) of offshore projects are scheduled for construction in Europe between now and 2020, and the development pipeline currently totals 24.2 GW. While more than 90% of the world’s installed offshore wind capacity is in Europe, governments globally have set ambitious targets for offshore wind, with markets starting to take off in China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US, where Clarksons Platou is already well placed. “This forecast for growth means demand for installation, accommodation and support vessels, jack-ups, barges and all associated vessels is set for a steady upswing,” said the broker.
Mr Colban-Andersen said the size and scale of today’s offshore wind projects has created operational and contractual complexities that are comparable to Northern European oil and gas projects. “Windfarms under construction now dwarf those built just 10 years ago,” he told OSJ. “They are multibillion pound investments, sited in deeper water and further from shore, cover far greater areas and comprise more and larger turbines.
“Vessels make up a significant percentage of a windfarm’s lifetime costs, so identifying requirements early can not only save money, it also reduces exposure to risk. Buying cheap can mean buying twice, so investing more upfront in a vessel portfolio that is fit for purpose will save money in the long run, but to do that, clients have to be confident in the intelligence and advice they are given.”
“In the offshore wind industry, many of the players are only just beginning to understand how significant the role of a broker can be. We are seeing a lot of demand for our services educating the industry. The thing about Clarksons Platou is that we can assist with every aspect of a project – not just vessels but advisory services and finance too. When it comes to port services, we are represented in every major port in the UK.
“With its background in Norway and Scandinavia, Platou has close links with industry leaders such as Statoil, which is entering the offshore wind market. We can also provide project financing for smaller developers. We have decades of experience of working with the oil and gas industry and bring all of the lessons learned there to offshore wind. We see ourselves very much as a ‘hub’ for the offshore wind industry.”
Clarksons Platou has been working in the background with offshore renewables since 2003, providing developers, vessel operators and shipyards with market analysis, vessel broking and contracting, first on the UK’s Round 1 and since then on strategies and procurement for windfarms in Denmark, the UK and Germany.
“Creating a dedicated renewables division is a logical next step given both the potential of the offshore wind market and the fact we are uniquely positioned to meet its needs,” said Mr Colban-Andersen.
“We have an unparalleled mix of offshore wind experts able to tap into the expertise of a company with a 40-year pedigree in oil and gas, a 160-year maritime heritage and a complete overview of the global vessel market. This includes access to the diversified investment banking arm Clarksons Platou Securities with its extensive research capability, understanding of the global maritime sectors and ability to advise on equity and debt capital markets and mergers and acquisitions.”
Clarksons Platou has also brought in David Matthews, formerly with Fred Olsen Windcarrier, to steer business development for the division, which will target work within the wave and tidal sectors as well as offshore wind.
“At least 20 distinct vessel types with vastly differing capabilities are employed over a windfarm’s lifetime, many requiring complex new technologies such as the walk-to-walk systems on service operations vessels and super cranes able to install the next generation of turbines,” said Mr Colban-Andersen.
“The company has already assisted offshore renewables clients to source all these vessel types from around the globe to support their North Sea activities, but with the new division, it is set to cement its place as the leading partner to the industry. Clients already respect the company’s capability and reach and will see the added value of having a network of renewables specialists on hand with the breadth of knowledge required to source vessels and provide strategic input that will reduce both cost and risk.”
Apart from new types of installation vessels – whether floating monohulls or ultra-large jack-ups – Mr Colban-Andersen foresees a requirement for a slow but steady stream of service operation vessels and new cablelayers capable of handling the requirements of the export cable segment and inter-array cablelaying of the type a few well known offshore vessel owners have already invested in.