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NEWS FROM INVERGORDON

The Invergordon fleet, which is the UK barometer on the state of the drilling market has been reduced to two rigs, the Kan Tan IV and the Transocean Explorer and both have their own special reasons for being there. 

The Transocean Explorer is a 1976 built Aker H3 which had been modified over the years in line with the usual industry practice but which was sort of left high and dry by the 1998 downturn. Almost literally because it was the first rig in at that time and the harbourmaster took the opportunity of putting it as far up the sound as possible. Its arrival took place before the amalgamation of Transocean Offshore with Sedco Forex, and this combination of companies has made an organisation which is so large that it is able to chose its level of involvement in the market. It seems to have decided not to involve the Transocean Explorer.

The Kan Tan IV is also a casualty of the 1998 downturn and it was also operated by Transocean Offshore on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of Geology. At that time the Chinese judged that Transocean might not have their best interests at heart since several of their own rigs were anchored alongside the "Tin Can" as the semi is affectionately known. They therefore awarded a management contract to Tor Drilling.

During the Tor Drilling era the Tin Can did not show any signs of moving from its position close to Invergordon and so the Chinese decided that they would change the management again. This approach has a similarity to the activities of Premiership football companies when they see that their clubs are not winning enough matches. Tor took the Chinese to court in Edinburgh and won a large settlement.

Meanwhile the management of the rig was awarded in succession to Dolphin and to Maersk contactors. Maersk Contractors are saying that the rig will soon be in action again, or at least available  for hire, although astronomical figures relating to the cost of refurbishment are being bandied about the oil industry watering holes in Aberdeen. 

MEANWHILE AT THE BUILDERS

A number of companies are in the throes of building rigs with varying degrees of success. It cannot be denied that a mobile drilling unit is an extremely complex marine object and modern technology where applied has made it even more complex. Just the cost of running cabling round these objects is mind boggling and the tendency for the clients to change their minds combined with their use of shipyards with limited construction experience has generally led to extensive time and cost overruns.

The Stena Drilling DP rig Stena Don has recently arrived in Norway for final fitting out having been built at the Kvaerner yard at Warnemunde. It should have gone to work in the spring so it is just a bit behind time. The two Ocean Rig MODUs under construction are so far behind time that their current delivery dates have no relationship with those intended at the outset. One the Lieiv Eiriksson (This name researched but it still doesn't look right) is now on trials, but it was reported in the press that problems with the installed systems mean that it is going to be considerably delayed and will result in a further $20 million investment. The second Eirik Raude being completed at the Irving Shipyard in Halifax ( Canada) one is now likely to start trials some time next spring. If the experience of others is anything to go by it should be ready some time in the autumn. 

It has also been reported in the press that the last of the three Sedco Express class DP semis, the Sedco Express, has finally been hired for work off the Egyptian coast in the Mediterranean which will doubtless be a relief for the owners, who might have been forgiven for thinking that their investment was never going to start to pay off.

TUGS AND TUGS

The Stena Don gets another mention this month. When it was moved from Warnemunde to south Norway the insurers required that it should be moved by two vessels each with 100 tonnes bollard pull.

Because of the cost of hiring these vessels it was decided that four tugs with 50 tonnes bollard pull should be used  and the whole job was indeed successfully completed, including a short passage on the back of a submersible barge.

It is our belief that only people who were not familiar with the extraordinary windage of the average semi would have taken such a decision, particularly since the whole thing had to negotiate some fairly narrow passages. The advantage of inland waterways is that they tend to be sheltered from wave action. The disadvantage is that land is never very far away.

THE 728 ARRIVES

The Asso Ventiquattro arrived in Aberdeen this month, as far as we know in heralded or celebrated, despite the fact that it is the first of a new design off the stocks. The 728 is a slightly smaller version of the 722, seemingly taking the best of the larger vessel as well as the best of the UT720.

It looks like an absolutely splendid craft and with 14000BHP available loses little in power. Back in the 1970s we used to envy the extremely compact anchor-handling tugs because of the ease of manoeuvring and the massive advantages of a short after-deck when it came to anchor-handling. Its probable that others will be looking in envy at the UT728 for the same reasons.

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