Dutch entrepreneurialism

August 1, 2014

Sander Vergroesen, IRO’s managing director 

Dutch offshore suppliers are innovating to keep ahead, providing solutions in ever deeper and colder waters globally. IRO’s Sander Vergroesen spoke to Elaine Maslin.

The global offshore industry is growing and Dutch offshore contractors and suppliers are at the front of the crowd expanding with it.

Armed with an entrepreneurial attitude, and a civil engineering and maritime past, Dutch offshore companies provide services to oil and gas projects across the globe, from Singapore to Mexico, and including Australia, the Middle East, Russia, and Newfoundland.

They are busy, both in the North Sea, where offshore renewables are providing an increasing source of work, and overseas. In fact, some 75% of revenues of the 430 member companies of the Association of Dutch Suppliers in the Oil and Gas Industry (IRO) comes from overseas, including deep water Brazil, Mexico, and Australia, says Sander Vergroesen, the organization’s managing director. “These regions are requiring more sophisticated equipment and that’s what the Dutch try to deliver and are capable of delivering. They strive to stay ahead.”

Dutch offshore companies are spread right across the supply chain, from seismic companies like Fugro, to fabrication, transportation and installation firms like Heerema Fabrication Group (See p. 18) and Dockwise (p. 6). In between are companies like GustoMSC (p. 20) and SBM Offshore, which designs offshore drilling and offshore units and floating production systems. “It is a complex mix and these companies are market leaders. Companies like Huisman (p. 28) are one of a kind,” Vergroesen, says. “Their owners are entrepreneurial and they like a challenge, they like coming up with solutions, with things no one has come up with before.”

An obvious example is Allseas mega-vessel Pieter Schelte, and Huisman’s recent rope-luffing knuckle boom crane (See pp. 12, 28, respectively). Dutch companies also work closely with strong research institutions and universities, like TU Delft, MARIN (Marine Research Institute Netherlands) and TNO, Vergroesen says.

Barge Master/Bayards Aluminium’s motion compensated helideck. Image form Barge Master. 

More Dutch companies are turning their skills to the oil and gas sector, too. In recent years, companies like shipbuilders and dredging companies have also been focusing more, next to their established business, on offshore oil and gas. Companies like Boskalis and Van Oord have developed and are growing their offshore divisions, using the expertise they have developed over the years, Vergroesen says.

Offshore oil and gas companies are also turning their skills to the offshore renewables sector and decommissioning will also be added to the mix soon, he says. “The Dutch have been sailing the oceans for centuries, there is a merchant mentality, and [they] look for business opportunities,” Vergroesen says. “They come up with new solutions and equipment, from handling systems to cable laying solutions.”

Dutch suppliers are also conscious of the need for cost effective solutions, says Vergroesen. “Cost is a very important issue right now, globally,” he says. “If you can come up with something smart, for operators who are going into harsher, deeper environments, and for a competitive price, that is what counts in our industry right now.”

A recent example of Dutch innovation is the first motion compensated helideck (pictured) designed by Bayards Aluminium, a Dutch specialist in lightweight and maintenance free structures for the offshore industry, and Netherlands-based motion compensation specialist Barge Master.

It is driven by three actuators compensating two translations (sway and heave) and one rotation (roll) of the vessel it is installed on, making the helideck stay in an earth-fixed steady position, enabling a greater operating window for helicopter operations.

“To keep on improving and innovating is key. Everyone is screaming the same thing, but it is true. You have to stay ahead—that is the challenge,” Vergroesen adds.

The IRO was founded in 1971. It was set up to promote the interests of Dutch supply and service companies in the upstream oil and gas industry. •


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