Business continues to improve offshore

 Gulf of Mexico rig activity continues to increase, bringing with it an improved outlook for most offshore service vessel operators.
At the end of year, according to IHS-Petrodata, Houston, the region was home to 118 rigs, up two from the previous week and three rigs from a month earlier. At the end of 2010, however, there were 124 rigs in the Gulf. Of the 118 units in the Gulf at the end of 2011, 71 were contracted compared with 61 at the end of 2010. Utilization in 2011 was 60.2 percent at the end of year. This compares to 49.2 percent at the end of 2010.
For most supply and crewboat owners in the Gulf, they have seen a rise in day rates and utilization each month since September. Still, for the most part, day rates and utilization continue to lag behind a year ago. For example, anchor-handling tug/supply vessels posted average day rates and utilization of $40,000 and 67 percent in December 2011 compared with $65,000 and 84 percent utilization a year earlier. Rates and utilization of smaller supply vessels in December were $4,320 and 70 percent, respectively, compared with $4,550 and 72 percent a year ago. And small crewboats posted average rates and utilization in December of $2,910 and 64 percent compared with $3,225 and 64 percent a year earlier.
Only large supply vessels and large crewboats are ahead of 2010. In December, the average day rate for larger supply boats was $13,833 and utilization stood at 91 percent. At the end of 2010, it was $10,850 and 81 percent. In December, average day rates were more than $1,000 higher than rates in November 2010.
Most of the rate increases in the large OSV fleet are due to a vessel shortage. It’s estimated there at least 50 fewer large vessels in the Gulf fleet compared to spring 2011. As a result, operators with approved deepwater exploration plans and drilling permits have been snapping up deepwater vessels.

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