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The news

Various sources reported the market as being in an ‘upset’ state of play, making the job of sorting the wheat from the chaff something of a skill this month. On the one hand, a broker reported Aberdeen as being reminiscent of Great Yarmouth in the old Northsea herring boom days, with vessels tied from quay to quay so tightly it was possible to walk from one side of the port to the other. Right!

 Another - one of only a small handful of reputable sources - was more succinct and reported the market during June as being less than bouyant but not quite at crash level. It appears that the spot market was almost full to the brim with charter rates responding accordingly, in some cases going down by 50% in under 5 days. One broker reported a longcast in more onerous terms, predicting that recent newbuildings and spot market increase in tonnage may present ‘a challenge’ in the near future. However, the same source is confident that the market will pick up as the year accelerates towards autumn - something I feel sure many hope is the case.

 Given that there are 20 PSV’s under construction currently in European yards, 15 for delivery in ‘03, 4 in ‘04 and 1 which is TBC  (Vik Sandvik’s all aft VS493) newbuildings continue to dominate the scene. As an aside, 11 of these are UT PSV designs, proving again their popularity amongst operators. There are also 7 AHTS/ MPAHTS under construction for delivery ‘03 / ‘04, 4 of which are UT’s and the remaining three of Maersk design.

 I will continue to peruse the situation from my comfortable leather chair and hope that I don’t get to writing that most hackneyed of phrases so beloved of cynics like my good self; ‘I told you so.’ Having said that, perhaps brokers speculating ‘challenges ahead’ are not merely crystal ball gazing? Time will tell....

 Vessel bits and pieces

 Solstad's UT745E PSV Normand Flipper  was taken on by Statoil for a 28 day firm + 21 daily options. The vessel was on for Saipem on the Castro Sei  but had taken advantage of a gap in the charter to play the field. She is due to return to Saipem upon completion of the Statoil stint.

 Farstad were cracking open the celebrations last month when two of their vessels took up long term charters (3.3 years) with Arrendadora Ocean Mexicana SA on a maintenance charter. Both Far Scotia and new build Far Swift - of the UT755 type - were taken up to start work in August and September. Both ships will have extra accommodation bolted on for the contract, to be fitted by Aker Brattvaag. Other fittings will include a new DP system and a new 40 tonne crane. Far Scotia  is currently on with ASCO, due off charter second half of July whilst Far Swift should be out from the shipyard at Brevik a short time before that. AHTS Lady Astrid, an UT712, has been delivered by Simek to P/R International Offshore Services ANS, a subsidiary of Farstad Shipping. It is reported that the vessel will operate - at least initially - in the North Sea .

 GulfMark's Highland Eagle has been taken up for survey work by Canyon Offshore. The UT755L design is expected to have completed the contract around the end of August.  Staying with Gulf, July 3rd was the date when the two newbuildings, UT722L AHTS Highland Valour and PSV UT755 Highland Monarch entered the fleet list.

 Boa’s AHTS VS480 Boa Giant completed off Angola before returning to the North Sea . She is due a small period of ‘down time’ before taking up a short charter with Aker-Kvaerner.

 Ostensjo’s Edda Freya is on for two months with Norsk Hydro after beating stiff competition for the job whilst their newbuild ST253 ROV/Survey ship Edda Fonn was delivered. An interesting looking vessel, she was chartered to DeepOcean to work for Statoil and Norsk Hydro for 150/200 days per annum, the off time being spent ‘uncommitted’.

 Toisa’s PSV VS483 Toisa Intrepid ended her 5 year stint with ASCO before going to the Tyne for dry docking. Once out of the wash and brush up, she is expected to trade the spot.

 TFDS UT740 AHTS Troms Tjeld ended a marathon 6 year charter to Statoil this month - but there was no rest for her as she was blown away on a contract for transportation work for a wind farm operator in Ireland.

 Eidesvik’s VS490 PSV Viking Dynamic, due to end her Statoil charter in July, has been taken on by Danish outfit DONG for a 1 year firm charter. A newbuild VS470 MkII, under construction at Westcon - originally due for Sira Offshore - has also been taken over by Eidesvik. Built in Lithuania and towed to Norway for completion, she is due to be delivered early in 2004.

 Trico Marine's UT741 Northern Admiral  has now been confirmed as Norsk Hydro’s AHTS following the competition for the contract. The ship is fixed for 2 years + options. Northern Corona was taken on by Agip for an 80 day firm supporting Deepsea Bergen.

 Swire Pacific’s seemingly unstoppable newbuild drive was almost capped this month when the final three UT710 AHTS types were delivered from INP South Korea. The three ships Pacific Wyvern, Wrangler and Wrestler will all trade in the Far East - although the caveat ‘for the forseeable future’ means they could also pop up in other more exotic places like Torry without much warning! Swire - nonplussed by their already extensive programme - then announced that that have also ordered two UT780 AHTS from an Indonesian yard with delivery sometime towards the end of 2004. You can’t keep a good man down, it seems!

 Tidewater added to the spot this month when KMAR 404 AHTS McNee Tide arrived with the company also stating that VS480 PSV Robert H. Boh was also en route.

 Maersk brought two ships out of global hiding this month, producing their ‘S’ class Maersk Supporter, having spent her time away from the North Sea on contracts in the Far East and West Africa. Maersk Logger was also due but the last news I had was that she had popped up down south in Great Yarmouth.

 Havila - who have now confirmed they will acquire the standby fleet - saw the launching of their AFSV UT527 at Vyborg in Russia last month. The vessel, named Havila Troll , is designated an Area Field Surveillance Vessel, and was towed after launching for fit out to Havyards Leirvik. She is due for charter to Norsk Hydro in December of this year.

 In the standby sector, BUE Viking’s Viking Venturer was fixed to Shell for standy duties with Heerema’s heavy lift barge Thialf. Terms are 2 months firm with further options.

 On a tug note, Smit has purchased Belgian towage company URS - Unie van Redding en Sleepdienst - who are possibly better known as owners of the UT722 Union Manta and the larger President Hubert. Smit already owned 49.9% share in URS but will now acquire the total share capital. URS own a fleet of tugs operating towage and salvage on the Schelde and in and around the Belgian coastline.

 Staying with tugs, the venerable AHT Lady Laura is reported sold, subject to inspection. Operated by Klyne Tugs she was built in 1977 as the Lunde Senior and took a few names before her present one. She is advertised as having 10000BHP with a bollard pull of 100 tons. Interestingly she spent some time as Stril Poseidon - which brings me neatly to....

 Simon Mokster took delivery of the new Stril Poseidon on the 5th July at Langsten Verft, hailing the ship as the ‘world’s most advanced standby vessel’. Fitted with a special stern ramp for boat recovery, and with an onboard survivor capacity of 370 people, she is on for Statoil on an 8 year charter working the Halten Bank area of the Norwegian sector.


 Given that the season of holidays is upon me, I am unable to submit anything this month as part of the comments section. Whilst I love writing this column, it is acknowledged that even scribes who do this sort of thing for love need a break - and I am taking mine! Hopefully, I’ll be back with something topical next month!