Evolving offshore operations


March 12, 2012

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As industries go, the ferry business isn’t known as the most entrepreneurial of sectors.

Indeed, over the past fifteen to twenty years – and with the rise and rise of low cost airlines – it’s a sector that has become increasingly reliant on the freight and road haulage market; leaving many European operators struggling to stay afloat.

So for many, it may have been surprising to see one particular operator linked with something altogether different. Something that could offer an insight into the shape of things to come.

As part of a deal struck with Centrica, European Seaway, a 23,000 tonne P&O operated passenger ferry is to be taken off its traditional cross channel route and will be moored 7 kilometres off the UK coast. The boat – having undergone a refit – will then enter a two-year charter, serving as a floating hotel and workstation for technicians and engineers working on the Lynn and Inner Dowsing wind farm array.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that a ferry has been used in this manner. Companies such as C-Bed have already started making a name for themselves refitting older passenger and freight vessels and promoting their potential benefits.

Nevertheless, the P&O deal is different. Since it’s the first time that such an industry heavyweight has broken ranks and started dealing with the developer direct.

For now, P&O are positioning the deal as a one-off and, despite the marketing department’s efforts, are evidently keen to downplay the development. How long that will last, remains to be seen.

With offshore wind energy crews currently being shipped from port to park on an almost daily basis, technicians will quickly tire of the transfer times. While at the same time, developers risk losing out on valuable construction and maintenance man hours.

Viewed in this light, floating service stations would appear a logical choice and the next natural step in the evolution of operating offshore.

A potentially lucrative new revenue stream then. Particularly for those entrepreneurial types, willing to dip their toe in the water.

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