Essential Offshore Player Finishes Another Great Mexico YearBy Pedro Alcalá | Tue, 12/21/2021 - 12:53
Q: How has Heerema adapted to the administrative transitions that occurred in 2021?
A: This has been a successful year for us in Mexico. We finished a substantial amount of installation work on the platforms in the Ichalkil and Pokoch fields for Fieldwood Energy. We also completed yoke tower installation work at ENI’s Amoca field. This represented a steady stream of installation work in the country that kept us occupied the whole year, continuing our success from the previous year.
We achieved these two straight years of success despite logistical difficulties imposed by the pandemic, which affected offshore crew changes and the onboarding of international specialized personnel into Mexico. The majority of our crews are citizens from Malaysia and The Philippines, so coordinating their arrivals was difficult due to the quarantine measures. As a result, this led us to rely more on Mexican personnel and Mexican companies, which became an overall positive outcome from this difficult scenario. We trusted our Mexican commercial partners to provide personnel with the appropriate training and skill sets. Our on-site management team from the Netherlands was quite impressed with this new workforce.
Q: What are the key differences in your experience working with international private operators in Mexico versus PEMEX?
A: As a global company, we have worked with a number of private operators internationally, so we have successfully adapted to their standards and practices through our previous experiences with them. The main difference when working with them in Mexico, as opposed to working with PEMEX, is that we have to manage a much more careful application of CNH’s regulatory standards. The commission technically demands similar things from PEMEX and there are some key modifications that you have to consider. This applies mainly to environmental and local content standards. With that being said, our experiences with PEMEX have prepared us to be ready for this transition toward larger amounts of work with private operators. It has certainly placed us in a very competitive position when compared to other operators of specialized fleets who might be looking to enter the Mexican market for the first time. They might have extensive experience with another major operator, such as Shell, in other regions, but they are still going to struggle with certain aspects of the Mexican context, where we already have great comprehension. In general, I would say that it has been quite a swift transition.
Q: How have your contracting modalities been affected?
A: Since the beginning of this federal administration, we have worked less with operators and more as subcontractors for platform manufacturers that have been awarded turnkey EPCI contracts by operators, and PEMEX in particular. This includes companies with prominent manufacturing yards in Tampico and Altamira area ,. Some of these companies have had negative experiences since the pandemic began. At the end of the day, these companies have little to no expertise in offshore installations, so when these companies accept this responsibility, they enter a subcontracting market in which they are offering work to companies like ours, and they do this while having an understanding of our work that can be quite incomplete. This leads to some liability issues. Certainly, we recognize their expertise in the field of manufacturing, of which we are bereft, but there is a knowledge gap that you have to be careful to close when you sign these contracts, so that the full implications of each offshore operation are understood. We have dealt with these difficulties throughout the contracting processes and the path to an agreement on certain issues has been complex.
These issues have affected the project´s time frames. For example, an offshore transportation and installation contract when offered by an operator tends to be finalized two years in advance. For instance, they contract their transportation and installation services at the same time as their EPC services, so both contractors can get to know one another and begin coordinating at a platform’s initial design stage. When we are offered a contract by a fabricator, they want to hire us four to five months before the transportation and installation takes place. This complicates things for a company like ours, since we are constantly scheduling work for our vessels around the world in that former modality. So, the chances of the required vessel being available for work on five months’ notice is rather slim, not to mention the availability of our engineers and specialists. Additional preparation time might be needed as well. For instance, specific platform installations have specific technical requirements as there is no general applicable way to transport and install these incredibly complex and unique structures. This issue has forced us to turn down some work in Mexico but it has also compelled us to establish a closer relationship with these manufacturers so that this knowledge gap can be closed to generate a mutual benefit.
Heerema Marine Contractors is headquartered in the Netherlands. It is a leading marine contractor in the international offshore oil and gas and renewables industry. It excels at transporting, installing and removing offshore facilities.