For the second consecutive month, offshore service vessel operators have something to cheer about. Nearly all classes of vessels enjoyed increases in utilization and day rates during September, which followed on the heels of August’s increases. While the overall U.S. Gulf of Mexico utilization rate for offshore rigs was relatively flat during September, according to figures from ODS-Petrodata, Houston, there is a story below the surface — deepwater.
There are a couple of reasons why large anchor-handlers, supply vessels and crewboats posted the biggest increases in rates in September.
One is that several vessel operators were busy chasing down rigs that had been set adrift during the rash of hurricanes in the Gulf during September. One major vessel owner reportedly had three of its largest vessels busy towing a couple of floating rigs back to their drilling site or into shipyards for inspection. Fixed platforms that were damaged during the storms also required vessels.
However, a more lasting reason for increased vessel utilization is the number of deepwater rigs (rated for greater than 3,000’ of water) under contract on Oct. 1 compared with the start of the third quarter. Utilization of the Gulf’s deepwater rigs is effectively at 100 percent with 26 of 30 units contracted and the four idle units cold-stacked. This is six more than were contracted on July 1.
Additionally, vessel operators are seeing more work due to less idle time between drilling assignments for deepwater rigs. The amount of downtime between jobs was lengthy during the first and second quarters, but there was significantly less idle time during the third quarter, according to Tom Marsh, U.S. publisher for ODS-Petrodata.
This scenario is expected to continue. “I don’t see a significant change in the fourth quarter,” Marsh said. “With four deepwater rigs cold-stacked there is no spare capacity presently in the U.S. Gulf. However, that doesn’t mean rigs won’t come into the Gulf to meet future demand.”