WORKBOAT MAGAZINE REPORTS INDICATE THAT THE GULF OF MEXICO OFFSHORE OIL INDUSTRY IS PICKING UP , NEW VESSEL CONSTRUCTION IS UP. BUT ONE TYPE OF VESSEL IS STILL MISSING.
|U.S.Coast Guard Photo of the BP Rig Fire and Oil Field Support Vessels Responding
The March edition of WorkBoat is on the streets. Perusing through it we learn that the U.S. Gulf offshore oil industry and its related support vessel fleet is doing well in the wake of the BP disaster and recovery. David Krapf, Editor in Chief reports on page 4 that there appears to a be a bit of a boom in Offshore Service Vessel (OSV) construction. He notes that big players Hornbeck Offshore Services and Harvey Gulf International are stretching existing hulls and building new vessels. Bollinger Marine just completed a $50 million contract on this type of work and is starting some more. Elsewhere in this issue we learn that day rates for OSV's are up and the WorkBoat Composite Index of stocks saw a 15% jump for operators. We have links by the way to WorkBoat in our NEWS SECTION if you want to read the entire electronic version. We regard this publication as highly reliable and very comprehensive when it comes to monitoring what is going on in the world of tugs and OSV type vessels .If this publication thinks there is something of a boom going on, you can bet there are a lot of positive indicators out there. But there is one important type of vessel not being built, the lack of which could put us through a second version of the BP disaster.
We still don't see robust deep submergence vessels being constructed capable of performing the type of heavy duty "stabbing operations" that the smaller surveillance unmanned submersibles couldn't do that so delayed the capping of the well in the BP disaster. The seafloor well head went uncapped for far too long during the BP disaster because the various capping devices could not be set into place. The little surveillance unmanned subs could provide images of what was wrong, but their little mechanical arms and low weight could not be brought into play to "muscle" the various well head devices suspended by literally miles of cable from the surface into place. Robust deep submergence vessels aren't some new technology, we used to have such things around in the 70s but they were strictly naval submarine salvage tools or university research tools. As illustrated above some navies still have a few around, so the problem isn't that we don't know how to build what we need. During BP one wag put the problem of "stabbing" the subsea parts with a capping device at the project's depth as similar to "trying to stick a wet noodle up a wildcats butt at fifty paces." That description, in hind sight, is actually pretty accurate. Yet we are now drilling away again in "Deep Water" with no attempt or requirement to have real deep sea bottom repair capability.
The industry already has an oil spill response organization paid for by industry members that maintains oil spill response boats around the Gulf along with miles of oil boom and other surface recovery equipment. Adding two of these deep submergence type vessels to the response fleet would't have cost but a tiny fraction of what BP has put out so far in damages. Perhaps if the well was not allowed to run for weeks on end the damages wouldn't have been so high.
The cover story in this month's WorkBoat is titled Icy Reception (page 40). This article is the story of Shell Oil's unintentional grounding of the mobile off shore drilling rig KULLUK off of Alaska. The question in our mind when we learned of the event was simply what on earth was any kind of sane corporate management doing attempting to use a 30 plus year old vessel in Arctic waters. Every piece of equipment deployed into hyper sensitive waters like the High Arctic should be under 20 years old the expected normal service life of most vessels. Off shore drilling including in Arctic and "deep" waters is up and running again, but it appears that industry management has learned nothing from history. We are for drilling but with proper safe guards and the availability of deep water submersibles and the relative newness of equipment in sensitive waters seem rather minimal precautions to us.That there is no interest in these among management or the Coast Guard speaks volumes about our future in sensitive waters. When so little attention is paid to the obvious you have to wonder what else is slipping by.