Compared with most other markets, offshore vessel owners can reflect relatively positively on the Caspian market where major oil projects are progressing. Tengizchevroil’s development of the Tengiz oil field in Kazakhstan has led to contracts for multiple vessels owned and operated by a consortium between Topaz Energy and Marine and Blue Water Shipping. The combined revenue from these contracts will be more than US$500 million, according to Topaz. It has commissioned construction of 15 module carrying vessels (MCVs) for field operation. These are due to enter service in the second quarter of 2018.
Topaz has also been appointed the technical manager of three additional MCVs by a consortium consisting of Blue Water Shipping and Kazmortransflot. All of these vessels will be transporting oil and gas modules for at least two years to the Tengiz oil field from transshipment bases in Kazakhstan.
Two more MCVs were ordered in September from Vard Holdings. The 123m vessels are similar to the 15 units it is already building for Topaz. Vard’s shipyards in Tulcea and Braila in Romania and Vung Tau in Vietnam are constructing the MCVs for second-quarter 2018 deliveries.
There was further good news for the Kazakh offshore oil industry as the consortium of oil companies developing the huge Kashagan oil field have begun production testing. The US$50 billion project has been beset by delays and problems since development began a decade ago, so the field operator, North Caspian Operating Co, will be pleased to restart production since facilities were closed down three years ago. Kashagan began production in 2013, but output was suspended because of technical problems with the gas pipelines.
There was good news in Azerbaijan, where BP is already operating two large offshore oil and gas projects. In September, state oil company Socar signed an agreement with Malaysia’s Petronas to explore and develop hydrocarbons in the prospective offshore Goshadash block in the Caspian. This is 15km north of the Absheron archipelago in water depths of between 10m and 50m, so jack-up rigs can be used for exploration drilling. If this goes ahead, there would be support opportunities for vessel owners.
One owner operating in Azerbaijan has added another vessel to its fleet. Caspian Marine Services has taken delivery of a new fast crew supply vessel from Austal Ltd’s shipyard in Western Australia. Rashid Behbudov is a 70m Incat Crowther-designed large crew transfer catamaran. It can carry 150 passengers plus 16 crew at a maximum speed of 30 knots over a range of 400 nautical miles. It has a cargo deck area of more than 400m², an Ampelmann walk-to-work gangway and DP2 class dynamic positioning.
In the Black Sea, Gazprom has made progress on its proposed TurkStream gas pipeline project. It has received permits from the Turkish authorities to survey the planned route for the pipeline in Turkey’s territorial waters. This is a resurrection of the South Stream gas project that was cancelled for political reasons.
If the TurkStream project does progress, it will follow 660km of the previously proposed South Stream route and then another 250km route to supply Russian gas to the European part of Turkey. Gazprom expects to lay two strings of gas line, with the first one exclusively for gas supplies to the Turkish market.
In the Mediterranean, most of the offshore activity is focused on new gas projects in Egypt, but vessel operators are also picking up work from mobilising rigs to the region from the North Sea. The latest deal involved Finarge’s 19,000 bhp and 220-tonne bollard pull anchor handlers AH Varazze and AH Valletta towing Transocean’s semi-submersible rig Sedco 704 from Scotland to Malta in October.