Deck Carriers and Semi-submersible Big Cargo Vessels: Caution Gives Way to Hope

Credit: Heavy Lift PFI

Deck carriers and semi-submersible heavy transport vessels: Caution gives way to a rising tide of optimism, writes a Heavy Lift Pfi news source.

Deck carriers and semi-submersible transport vessels

Deck carriers and semi-submersible transport vessels perform some of the most eye-catching and technical transportation projects known to man. Demand for these vessels over the past couple of years did not quite match the levels seen in the multipurpose sector, but a perfect storm of events could see that tighten up. David Kershaw reports.

The Netherlands-headquartered Roll Group fleet can be categorised in two parts: semi-submersible dock vessels that offer lift capacity and ro-ro options marketed under the RollDock banner; and BigRoll’s ro-ro widedeck carriers. “Our dock vessels are smaller, super flexible, have a limited depth and dock walls. Therefore, they are ideal for transportation of smaller modules, all kinds of vessels and smaller components for the offshore wind sector like nacelles and wind turbine blades,” explained Peter Rondhuis, Roll Group ceo.

“Our wide deck carriers have more deck space and are DP2 installed, so they are perfect for larger modules and components for the offshore wind industry like monopiles. Due to the DP2 and our high-end expertise, we are able to operate offshore.”

He believes its current fleet matches well to mid-term market demand, and right now its heavy transport capacity is well utilised. “The lead time really depends on the kind of vessel. The MC-class vessels (BigRoll has two 20,000 dwt units, plus one DP2 12,000 dwt carrier) are booked for projects for the medium term. Our dock vessels are still operating in the spot market.” Naturally, the main cargoes handled at present are for oil, gas and offshore wind energy clients, with activity prevalent in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America and Africa.

From his perspective, returns have been reasonable. “However, we know from past years that the cycle needs higher prices to sustain [the business]. The industry also shows that there is limited appetite in fleet renewal due to long-term returns,” Rondhuis explained.

Factory-to-foundation service

To differentiate itself from rivals, Roll Group offers both land and sea-engineered transport services. It has in-house engineering, while it owns and operates heavy transport ships, SPMTs, trailers and cranes worldwide. This has enabled it to offer a factory-to-foundation service to clients and to be involved with some of the sector’s most prominent projects. It is presently rounding up its scope in the LNG Canada project, for instance.

The company is also in the final phase of a project for ADNOC LNG, completing the offshore and onshore transport scope with its vessel Biscay, 96 axle lines, PPUs and jacking systems.

“We have been awarded contracts for large-scale projects for the years to come to provide full factory to foundation solutions with projects in Indonesia, Louisiana (USA) and Qatar. Currently, we are negotiating several other projects,” said Rondhuis.

In the future, it will be involved in East Coast USA offshore wind energy projects, as well as a DP2 project in Australia.

“Additionally, we are building a large gantry system that can be used for the installation of tall reactors, over 100 m in length and 2,000 tonnes. After completion, it will be deployed directly in Indonesia and after in Qatar.” 

United Heavy Transport (UHT) is the semi-submersible heavy transport vessel arm of the United Group, which encompasses United Heavy Lift (UHL) and its fleet of 19 F-900 multipurpose ships, United Wind Logistics’ (UWL) three deck carriers, and United Engineering Solutions (UES) – the services arm of United comprising engineers, captains, chief officers, and naval architects offering engineering solutions for heavy, complex and oversized cargo. “Our value-add proposition, I would say, is unique in the industry,” said Anthony Perez, regional director, Americas at UHT, who added that clients have responded to its onestop- shop approach.

The group has one of the youngest overall fleets in the industry, its oldest ship dating back to 2012. UHT’s flagship vessel, which it manages commercially, the 82,000 dwt Hua Rui Long, was delivered in August last year to Guangzhou Salvage. Originally scheduled to launch in 2020 before being delayed by the pandemic, it is well placed to capitalise on thereinvigorated oil and gas market.

We know from past years that the cycle needs higher prices to sustain [the business]… there is limited appetite in fleet renewal due to long- term returns.– Peter Rondhuis, Roll Group

Current projects for deck carriers and heavy transport vessels

“We transported a large semi-submersible drilling rig from the Caribbean back to Southeast Asia at the end of last year/early this year. Currently, we are executing a project for a client, a first of its kind, where we are moving three large offshore jackets in one transport. It is nice to be a part of new, innovative solutions. We are executing multiple voyages for them and working on a couple of enquiries for moving offshore rigs, which would keep the vessel busy for the rest of the year.”

Perez said that the market for semi-submersible charters has not been as tight as what was witnessed by the multipurpose sector over the past two years. “2020 was expected to be the ‘comeback year’ [for UHT] and covid greatly hindered that.” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions that were put in place saw various companies step back on contracts. “Then the market slowed to a halt. If you did not have a backlog in 2020, it was pretty hard to find new work,” he explained.

“Going into 2022, the market started picking up and tendering activity went to ahigh level, especially in the second half of the year. We started to see that coming to fruition at the end of the year and the beginning of 2023.”

He cited a “perfect trifecta” of industries growing concurrently. “The offshore oil and gas industry is booming again, specifically exploration and production where the demand for offshore rigs is growing and projects are acquiring FID. With the emergence of offshore wind in new markets and the fast-tracking of many LNG projects, in part due to Europe’s energy independence goals, you have the perfect storm of demand.” Perez expects there to be a strong demand and a healthy backlog for the next few years.

The UHT fleet should be well utilised for the rest of 2023 but there is capacity for spot bookings; Perez said it is better to be three-to-six months ahead for charters.

“I think where I might have been cautiously optimistic for the last couple of years, now I am optimistic. We see the signs from many different industries all going in the right direction.”

Going into 2022, the market started picking up and tendering activity went to a high level, especially in the second half of the year. We started to see that coming to fruition at the end of the year… – Anthony Perez, UHT

Modularised cargoes 

Other focuses for the group will be modularised cargoes for the oil and gas business. FPSO modules from Brazil has been a particularly interesting market. Floating wind will gather steam too. “In this market, we are seeing more enquiries on an early involvement stage… Designers are reaching out to us to check and see how they can optimise shipments and checking feasibility,” said Perez. This work is some way off in the distance, however. “We are talking end of the decade.”

For Roll Group, the future looks promising and Rondhuis expects “good years to come”. With the world population rising and a growing middle class, energy demand will trend upwards. “At the same time, the energy transition moves fast and more and more projects are kicking off. Due to the developments in Russia, we see opportunities for other oil and gas rich countries like, for example, Libya. Additionally, the Middle East is booming. Megaprojects are happening and kicking off.

“Regarding offshore wind and the increasing components, that is just more work for our vessels. The floating offshore wind business is an entirely new industry that we are following closely. It comes with new transportation challenges, which gives Roll Group the opportunity to add additional value. In that sense, it is nice to supply to industries that undergo huge developments.”


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Source: Heavy Liftpfi


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