The excitement and activity associated with the East African market in the early part of this decade is now a distant memory, but there has been some activity to report and there is a positive sentiment about the longer term
Opportunities for mainstream offshore support vessels (OSVs) in East Africa have been sporadic at best for the last 24 months. Correspondingly, many of the smaller vessels engaged in associated security roles have also departed the region. The boat market locally is once again limited to a small number of local owners with, typically, older tonnage. More sophisticated vessels need to mobilise from far afield, a fact that has often hampered short-term projects.
In 2016, drilling was limited to the short campaign conducted by Shell/BG in Tanzania in the fourth quarter consisting of two wells in the Mafia Deep basin. Farstad was awarded the work for three of its PSV 08 series vessels, Far Skimmer, Far Sitella and Far Starling. They are supporting the drillship Noble Globetrotter II operating in blocks 1 and 4 delivering part of the Tanzania LNG project.
In terms of upcoming drilling, Total is reportedly planning a one-well campaign off Mozambique around May 2017. This will likely require the support of two dynamic positioning class 2 (DP2) platform supply vessels (PSVs) for a period of around 45 days. Eni are also rumoured to be preparing for a drilling campaign, but details are scant. Along with Anadarko, these operators are all indicating that there will be an uptick in activity in Mozambique, but the timeframe in which we will see genuine momentum remains unclear.
Other vessel and tendering activity remains limited for now. CGG has been awarded several seismic campaigns in Mozambique’s Rovuma basin. Saipem is seeking various tugs and multicats for liquefied natural gas (LNG) field development in 2018. There has been some metocean activity. Shell appointed Metocean Services International (MSI) to deploy and service a large mooring array to study wave and current conditions. The campaign used the anchor-handling tug/supply vessel Greta K, which mobilised from Cape Town and subsequently the multipurpose diving and survey vessel Adams Nomad, which had to mobilise from Bahrain (avoiding the high risk area off Somalia). Duration onsite was short (two to three weeks), so preparation time to get vessels modified, hardened and mobilised was longer than the actual projects. This highlights the high cost and risk of delays for projects in the region. Results from the MSI work will help to design infrastructure needed to develop the deepwater gas discoveries identified originally by BG. Also in June, Aminex commenced commissioning on a subsea pipeline and gas plant for its Kiliwani North development plant 15 kilometres off the Tanzanian coast.
The energies of vessel owners are largely focused on creating solid foundations for future work, and in turn, these are largely focused on Mozambique. Several owners have set about establishing local entities to take advantage of tendering opportunities that are starting to trickle in, albeit for projects commencing in 2019 and 2020. Vroon, for example, via its recently established Mozambique entity Vroon Offshore Services Limitada, aims to locate an OSV in Pemba, both as part of building a long-term presence and to take advantage of interim local requirements in an area that has no spot market. Its vessels are well suited to field operations.
Likewise, Miclyn Express Offshore has established an entity in Mozambique, initially to service its project clients via its Express Offshore Solutions subsidiary but also in due course to widen its fleet footprint in the region. Miclyn currently has a tug and barge combination there from the Middle East. Meantime on the terminal side, another Dutch owner, Kotug, entered the market in 2016 with two 6,300 bhp Rotortugs, RT Spirit and RT Magic. They are carrying out port and terminal towage services in the port of Nacala, located to the south of Pemba.
Peter Döring is a shipbroker at Mercers Offshore, www.mercersoffshore.com