Demand, crowded shipyards fuel supply vessel deals

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News,Business

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two New Orleans-based offshore supply companies have made recent deals adding up to nearly a billion in combined fleet expansions and improvements.

There's potential for more deals among Gulf Coast vessel companies this year, Matthew Donovan, a senior analyst with IHS-Petrodata, told New Orleans CityBusiness (http://bit.ly/12alRcv).

As oil and gas companies drill in ever-deeper waters, Donovan said, there's great demand for larger, more specialized oil and gas offshore supply vessels — but many shipyards already have a long list of projects in the works. It takes years to build the high-spec, 300-foot vessels now in demand, so vessel companies looking to grow fast are in a pinch, he said.

Harvey Gulf International Marine will spend $540 million to build three new specialty offshore supply vessels and buy 11 boats from Gulf Offshore Logistics of Lafayette.

Tidewater Inc. is buying Troms Offshore Supply AS of Norway for $400 million. The deal includes six platform supply ships, including one currently under construction. It's Tidewater's first foray into the North Sea oil and gas service market.

Donovan said acquisitions, particularly deals for boats under construction, are the quickest way for vessel operators to capitalize on current demand in the Gulf of Mexico and worldwide.

"That's a big thing especially with shipyard capacity so crowded at the moment," Donovan said. "If you want vessels now the way to do that is through acquisition."

One local company unlikely to be buying soon is Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington. It has two new vessels under construction and plans to build 22 more through 2016.

Hornbeck's $1.2 billion campaign is likely a factor pushing competitors to search for opportunities to buy, Donovan said.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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