Optimism still rules in the U.S. Gulf

Perhaps it was a bit premature to ring in the New Year with such high hopes for the Gulf oil service market. Several offshore service vessel operators that take part in WorkBoat’s monthly day-rate survey reported a general softness in the OSV market during January despite the continuing strength in the rig market. However, there is still a continuing optimism among vessel owners and operators, who generally expect workboat activity to increase in February.

Despite a minor slowdown in activity, virtually all vessel types and sizes recorded higher day rates in January while utilization was mixed.

Utilization of anchor-handling tug/supply vessels was relatively unchanged, but rates were up an average $2,300. Supply vessels also posted day-rate increases but also saw slightly lower utilization levels. The only vessel class that recorded an increase in both utilization and day rates in January was large crewboats.

January’s survey results don’t quite gel with the optimistic outlook from some analysts. Overall, U.S. Gulf utilization was nearly 84 percent with 130 rigs contracted out of 155. 

Tom Marsh, publisher-USA for ODS-Petrodata in Houston, said the Gulf rig market was at 100 percent effective utilization at the end of January. He also is optimistic about the market for the foreseeable future. “Rigs coming into the Gulf of Mexico will be able to find work,” he said.

Marsh was referring to speculation that some rigs that mobilized from the U.S. Gulf to the Mexican Gulf the past couple of years may return. Several jackups have already returned to the U.S. Gulf, the most recent unit in January. And, according to Marsh, 11 rigs under contract to Pemex in Mexico will reach the end of their contracts in May. Only two are reportedly under new contract requirements. 

“Even if half of the rigs return to the U.S. Gulf,” Marsh noted, “there wouldn’t be a problem for them getting a contract.”

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