Hornbeck orders 16 OSVs, boosting confidence in Gulf deepwater outlook

In a move that may signal expectations of a comeback in Gulf of Mexico activity, Hornbeck Offshore Services says it will build sixteen U.S.-flagged new-generation offshore supply vessels (OSVs).

The 300-class DP-2 OSVs will be Jones Act-compliant. Hornbeck said the new vessels will serve the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Mexico.

Hornbeck Offshore says eight of its new vessels will be based on the Super 320 design developed by VT Halter Marine. They will be larger versions of HOS Coral, which was delivered in 2009. (Brian Gauvin photo)

Hornbeck has contracted with VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, Miss., and with Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, Fla. Eight vessels are to be built at each yard, with options to build additional vessels.

The combined order is among the largest ever for OSVs in North America. The November 2011 announcement may inspire other companies to invest in Gulf assets, said Tim Colton, an industry analyst and founder of Colton Co.

"Hornbeck's order is awe-inspiring," Colton said. "It reflects confidence in the industry's future — fully justified, in my opinion — and refutes the hesitancy that seems to prevail elsewhere in this sector. Let's hope that some of the other operators will now follow Hornbeck's lead."

This is Hornbeck's eighth new-build vessel program since 1997 and its fifth new-build program involving state-of-the-art, technologically advanced new generation OSVs. The total cost of the first 16 vessels is expected to be approximately $720 million, said Carl G. Annessa, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Hornbeck.

Eight vessels to be built at VT Halter Marine will be the Super 320 design, a design developed by VT Halter for Hornbeck. These DP-2 (Dynamic Positioning, ABS Class 2) OSVs have 6,200 long tons of deadweight capacity, approximately 20,900 barrels of liquid-mud carrying capability, 11,863 square feet of deck area and a firefighting class notation. The Super 320 design is based on the smaller HOS Coral, a 290-class DP-2 OSV which Hornbeck has operated since 2009.

The Super 320 design includes a double hull that eliminates any fuel storage adjacent to the outer hull and engines that meet Environmental Protection Agency Tier 3 requirements for stack emissions.

The eight vessels to be built by Eastern Shipbuilding will be DP-2 classed. Four are based on the SV 300 design developed by STX Canada Marine of Vancouver, British Columbia. The design is in accordance with new International Maritime Organization regulations regarding pollution prevention. The other four vessels will be slightly longer and based upon the SV 310 design which includes diesel electric propulsion systems.

STX’s design has over 20,000 barrels of liquid-mud carrying capacity and a firefighting class notation. The SV 300 design calls for 5,500 long tons of deadweight capacity and 10,976 square feet of deck space, while the SV 310 design calls for 6,144 long tons of deadweight capacity and 11,536 square feet of deck space. The STX designs meet the same environmental standards as the VT Halter Super 320 design and will carry the ENVIRO class notation by the American Bureau of Shipping.

Since 1997, all Hornbeck's OSVs have been built on proprietary designs. The company has worked very closely with the contract yards and equipment vendors to eliminate significant construction delays. Hornbeck said this approach has given the company a significant advantage in securing contracts for their vessels even before the actual delivery has been made. Annessa said that Hornbeck's commitment to the new build program would “put us ahead of all the others” in terms of new vessel acquisition.

Although the 16 new OSVs will be Jones Act-compliant, Hornbeck said some will be hired out internationally. The Covington, La.-based company stated that it forecasts growth in the domestic industry.

"The company expects (the vessels) to service the anticipated increase in deepwater and ultra-deepwater drilling activity in all three of the company's core geographic markets of the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Mexico," Hornbeck said in a press release.

By Professional Mariner Staff