Mexico’s famous billionaire, Carlos Slim Helú, rarely misses an opportunity. In 2009, he decided it was time to start constructing jack-up rigs in Mexico and one of his companies, Swecomex, began the Independencia I jack-up project with the help of CICSA, Grupo Carso’s construction company. It became the first jack-up ever built by Mexican hands.
The Independencia I cost US$60 million and an interested company would have to pay US$160,000/day to rent it. However, as of April 2012, no company has taken the bait and the rig still finds itself without a contract. “We see demand for these types of platforms and that’s why we decided to make it ourselves. It is one of the most important projects we have with regard to the construction challenges,” says Fernando Martínez, Swecomex’s director of Sector Equipment and Structures.
The platform measures 3,100m2 and weighs in at 16,000 tonnes. It has capacity to operate in 122m water depth and drill 8km beneath the seabed. It took over a hundred workers and engineers, most of them Mexican, and a little over two years to finish its construction. Transporting a platform this size was not easy; Swecomex awarded Dockwise Ltd. the contract for the transportation of the Independencia I once construction was completed. Dockwise transported it out of the manufacture yard and into the Tuxpan River, where it stands directly before the Swecomex dock, by loading out the platform transversely onto a 100ft wide barge and lowering the support legs on either side of the barge so that the rig could stand on its own. When the barge was removed from under the rig, the Independencia I was standing firmly on its own at the Port of Tuxpan.
Martínez says that “Swecomex sees the Independencia I as the starting point of a future in which Mexico becomes a primary player in the construction of jack-up platforms.” Pemex is currently trying to increase the rig count in Mexican waters from 67 as of March 2012. A plan to raise rig requirements and cap day rates in 2010 failed, as companies took their rigs to other territories where the requirements were more relaxed or day rates were more attractive. In 2011, the NOC had to void a number of its tenders due to lack of interested parties, and hopes the same will not happen in 2012, according to Carlos Morales Gil, Director of Pemex E&P. If the trend of building more rigs in Mexican territories starts to grow, then Pemex may have a new source of jack-up rigs for its development strategy. This was confirmed by Gustavo Hernández García, Subdirector of Planning and Evaluation at Pemex Exploration and Production, who confirms that Pemex will indeed be using the Swecomex rig in the future, and is currently engaged in discussions with the company over contracting details.