Seeking to bolster its engineering support capability for a growing DP3 hybrid vessel fleet, the Sea Trucks Group occupied smart new premises in Rotterdam earlier this year. For founder and chief executive Jacques Roomans the move might suggest a return to his roots but, as Meg Chesshyre reports, the Dutchman's sights remain firmly fixed on a West African offshore market that today accounts for over 80% of the company's business.
With an eye to bolstering its engineering and project management capability and attracting high quality young engineers from the nearby university at Delft, Sea Trucks Group moved from Sleeuwijk, near Gorinchem, into prestigious new offices in Rotterdam earlier this year. Also involved in the move (from Zoetermeer) was Zeetech Engineering, the engineering firm with which STG entered into a strategic partnership in 2007.
'With both companies consolidated here, the initial role of this office will be to increase our capability in engineering and project management in order to support our projects worldwide,' explains Corrie van Kessel, Sea Trucks Group (STG) marketing and communications manager. STG does have a similar capability in Lagos and Sharjah, but felt it was important to establish a base in Europe, because a lot of young engineers with working wives and families are not easily attracted to work in West Africa or the UAE.
'The reason we are here is not because we intend to operate in the North Sea or anywhere near here,' says van Kessel. 'This is purely a supportive office to our operations elsewhere in the world, chiefly in West Africa and Australia. We came to Rotterdam because we are looking for good quality personnel, which we think can best be found in Western Europe.' West Africa has been STG's heartland since 1977 and currently accounts for over 80% of its business. The company's headquarters is in Lagos, but it has a strong Dutch heritage. Its founder, president and CEO, Jacques Roomans, based in Lagos, is Dutch, and there are a lot of Dutch employees.
'We arrived in Rotterdam with about 50 people and we are slowly increasing,' says van Kessel. 'At the moment the company has 2000m2, but there are options for further expansion 1200m2 on the same floor and another 1800m2 one floor down.
STG is moving forward with its substantial newbuilding programme of DP3 hybrid vessels, for which the company is now looking to build up its engineering support capability. The most recent delivery was the Jascon 31 construction/ accommodation vessel, which has a 400te crane and accommodation for 469. Built in China and commissioned in Singapore, it is currently working for BP in Angola in accommodation mode. The next vessel, the flagship Jascon 18, is in Singapore for outfitting right now. The first five vessels 28, 30, 34, 25 and 31 are all barge-shaped, and apart from the 25, which is based in the Asia Pacific region, are working in West Africa. The Jascon 34 has just started pipelay for Total in Gabon on the Anguille project. This is the first project being run from the new Rotterdam office. The deepwater pipelay construction vessel Jascon 18, due for delivery in 2014, will be shipshaped and built to a high specification. A hull has also been built for the Jascon 35, but further investment is on hold pending a decision on when and what type of vessel will be required.
The ship-shaped Jascon 55 DP2 construction support vessel is due for delivery from China at the end of the year.
Sea Trucks continues to expand in Africa. In 2010 it opened an office in Ghana, and it has had an operational office in Angola since 2004. It is also looking at possibilities in other countries along the West African coast. The second focus area is Australia and Asia Pacific. It has an office in Perth, started in 2007 and basically always has one vessel in the area, which has mostly been the Jascon 25.
The versatility of STG's hybrid fleet is demonstrated by a recent Jascon 25 workload encompassing three very different projects offshore Australia. The first, the Pyrenees SURF project for BHP Billiton, involved several changes of mode. The heaviest mid-water arch lift was 730te, and there was also mooring installation and umbilical and flexlay work. The second, in joint venture with Svitzer, involved decommissioning the remains of the West Atlas rig, written off by a Timor Sea blowout and fire in 2009.
Presently in the Bass Strait with Origin Energy on the Yolla enhancement project providing both accommodation and heavy lift services, Jascon 25 is expected to demobilise to the Kwong Soon shipyard in Singapore in the third or fourth quarter of this year, where STG already has a project team supervising the construction of Jascon 18. OE