At The Helm

ST Engineering Marine plans to make waves in the O&G sector with its restructured US facility for rig repairs. Mr Lim Nian Hua, President and CEO of ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore Inc., reveals his playbook to navigate the choppy waters offshore.

How has ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore grown in the US over the past two years?

ST Engineering acquired the assets of WorldMarine in 2017 at the trough of the offshore market. We retained the core team and started rebuilding the business while diversifying into ship repair to gain some stability in earnings.

After a hectic two years of developing and consolidating capabilities to meet the offshore customer needs, we scored a few decisive wins, including the upgrade of the new generation, ultra-deepwater Black series drillships for Diamond Offshore. We generated greater brand recognition for our new name; differentiated ourselves with new processes, such as managed pressure drilling system design and installation, and ballast water treatment system installation; and worked with established industry partners to provide turnkey solutions in niche areas such as thruster removal, overhaul and heave compensator upgrade.

We acquired new assets and equipment, including CNC burners, pipe benders and yard cranes, to improve the quality and efficiency of our services. Environmentally friendly ultra-high-pressure water blasting would be used instead of open grit blasting whenever possible. The dry dock was modified to add a thruster pit for servicing of vessels with drop-down thrusters. These investments, as well as additional workforce training, enable us to offer customers better solutions and value-added services in both rig and ship repair.

What are your considerations when making these investments in the current bearish O&G sector?

While it’s true that the offshore segment is still finding its sea legs in a climate of oil glut and weak prices, the industry has consolidated, becoming leaner and more technology-focused. For instance, you can see wider use of information technology for better and faster decision making and upgrades of equipment to deliver safer operations. Going forward, we can expect assets to be reconfigured to meet increasingly stringent requirements, and sophisticated equipment installed to enable efficient and safe operations.

ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore is keeping pace with these developments to ensure we are geared up and ready to work with owners and provide them services in these areas. Come next year, we are expecting many rig owners to upgrade or reactivate their existing assets. Our current capabilities and track records have put us in a good position to engage them in dialogues at the planning and budgeting phase as well as delivery of solutions and services downstream during project execution.

How are the prospects of offshore in the Americas?

In the Gulf of Mexico, two market sectors—shallow water drilling and deepwater exploration—are showing signs of recovery. In shallow water segment, experienced operators who have good control over operational cost have acquired restored shallow water jack-ups to extract residue from marginal oil fields.

For deepwater exploration, drillships built after 2010, designed for ultra-deepwater operations, are replacing older generations of drillships and semi-submersibles. These new generation drillships continue to invest in the maintenance and upgrade of their equipment to keep up with the high expectation of drillers. Some of the upgrades are done offshore while the drillships are in operations in order to reduce downtime. Developing teams that can extend from yard to offshore services is another initiative by ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore.

Another area is the subsea segment where we are collaborating with operators, like Saipem, Furgo and McDermott to find ways to improve operational efficiencies. Saipem is working with ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore to set up a spool fabrication base to support their activities, while Furgo is utilising ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore as a marine base for mobilisation and demobilisation of their survey equipment. We are working closely with them to stay ahead of the curve and be prepared for the upswing in offshore in the near future.

What are some of the successes ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore has made over the past two years?

There are a number of good wins that we are rather proud of, like the modification of an underwater mat to enable a rig owned by Enterprise Offshore to be deployed closer to the well for more effective drilling. That job was completed under a tight schedule, with an ABS special survey conducted at the same time to minimise asset downtime.

We provided facilities and ensured fast turnaround of Seccor’s lift boats operating in the Gulf of Mexico; and worked with customers to install advanced equipment that would improve the safety and efficiency of drilling operations. For the Diamond Black Hawk drillship, we assisted in the installation of crown-mounted passive heave compensators and managed pressure drilling systems through a collaboration with NOV and Weatherford.

We also engineered, installed and tested different makes of ballast water treatment system on vessels owned by Foss Maritime, NOAA and Diamond Offshore to meet new maritime regulations.

What’s next for ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore?

Both ship repair and rig repair are important segments for us to grow and establish ourselves as a premium service provider to the owners and operators of high value assets in the Gulf of Mexico. We are deepening our knowledge and capabilities on the dredger, subsea and para-military sectors so that we can provide innovative and responsive services to operators in these markets.

In offshore, shallow water and ultra-deepwater segments will be the key business drivers. We are planning ahead to support the rapid deployment of customer assets. These include infrastructural development, like a deepwater pier and a dry dock, automation of equipment, and workforce training to firmly anchor ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore as a leading offshore service provider in the US.