Juan Pablo Vega
President and Director General
Naviera Integral
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View from the Top

Automated Fleets and the Future of Offshore Development

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 15:28

Q: How are you preparing for the technological and industrial trends defining your line of business?

A: A great example of the preparations we are undertaking is the new vessel that we received in May 2019 from our Dutch partners, Damen Shipyards. Before it even arrived, the vessel was already fully contracted by a foreign operator that had asked for more boats of this kind. This indicates an overall increase in demand from the new players entering the industry through the latest bidding rounds. Although we have had ships successfully working for this type of client since 2018, this was the first new vessel that we imported for the exclusive use of these operators. Despite this development, we remain a faithful service provider to PEMEX, evidenced by our more than 32-year relationship. We are also in talks with Damen regarding how to best optimize our acquisition strategy so that we can rapidly meet the surging demand from new operators in Mexico while remaining compliant with existing regulations. Damen has supplied us approximately 80 to 90 percent of our existing fleet and the rest of the vessels were built in American shipyards, most of them before we established this fruitful relationship. While we have a great partnership with Damen and its technological excellence, if we cannot meet the demand together, we are also considering forming other alliances to keep up with the market. Most of our clients in this sector demand the innovative and top-of-the-line Fast Supply Vessel, or FSV, with a DP2 Dynamic Positioning system and newly-certified FIFI 1 fire safety systems. The design and engineering imperatives that defined this vessel’s construction also called for clean and efficient engine rooms, which greatly facilitate its maintenance and lower its operating costs. The degree to which this vessel’s systems are digitalized represents the top-of-the-line vanguard of our industry as well.

Q: What role does automatization play in your segment?

A: There is a controversial phrase in this industry: “One vessel, one man.” Obviously, technologies with these types of targets in terms of efficient design and engineering are justifiably not well-perceived by offshore labor. Of course, what is even worse is “One vessel, no man” — the very limits of automatization. However, we cannot ignore that this represents the future of our industry and many others. There is already an ongoing transformation in the automotive sector, and in the offshore segment, it is now technologically possible. In Rotterdam, it is already established that by the end of 2019, all vessels will have to be electric, and therefore potentially crewless, by law. On top is the fact that this port, along with Amsterdam and Antwerp, saw the first electric container barges sail off from and between their shores last year. Of course, there is a degree to which we have to separate the human impact from the enormous industrial efficiency that this ongoing development will represent. As a company focused on technological innovation, we have to admit that, when these vessels finally become available, we will be the first in line to acquire one.

Q: How does your company balance this focus on technological innovation with PEMEX’s historical contracting prioritization of low costs?

A: For one, this is a changing landscape since this is where new operators are changing the paradigm by prioritizing much more than just the lowest cost available. At the same time, we have been here and survived long before they arrived, and so we have worked through this contradiction previously. This balance is always on my mind; even now, this newly acquired vessel that I mentioned was a heavily meditated decision, given that we are talking about a market that has experienced a significant depression in the last four years as a result of the downturn. However, we have to trust in this increased activity from these new players. Many new operators recently met with President López Obrador and accorded a series of development goals for 2019 as part of the work they were already contracted to do within what was stipulated in the original tenders they were awarded during the bidding rounds. These new conditions are good indications for us to continue with our technological focus and trust that it will get us the business we need.

 

Naviera Integral, also known as Navinsa, is a Mexican offshore and maritime service provider based in Ciudad del Carmen. Its large and varied fleet transports both cargo and personnel between ports and offshore facilities.