To look back over Maersk Supply Service’s 50 year history – in 1967, you were the first Scandinavian shipping company to entering the offshore oil service sector; in 1979, as offshore oil globalised, you expanded to become the largest owner-operator of large support vessels and AHTs; in 1994, you entered the cable-laying business with the converted Maersk Fighter, and last year you completed a fleet renewal programme to integrate an offering ranging from towing, mooring and installation to inspection, maintenance and repair – the evolution of the company in its adapting to changing markets forces. You’ve had some involvement in offshore wind in the last decade but what about the floating wind sector motivated the company to move into this market now?
We see a clear fit between our capabilities and experience to meet the needs of this emerging market. It also fits well with our strategy. In 2016, we redefined our strategy to target one third of revenue from non-oil and gas related activities and another third from integrated solutions related activities.
By integrated solutions I mean taking full responsibility as a contractor over the execution of the work including of course project management, supply chain management and engineering activities to go along with it.
Supporting the floating wind market with installation and maintenance solutions fits into both targets and calls on vessels already within our fleet – anchor handlers and subsea construction vessels, as well as the experience of our in-house engineers and offshore crew. Floating wind is currently in a formative phase. It is important for Maersk Supply Service to contribute on demonstrator projects now to support the industry with achieving the efficiency required at a commercial scale in the future.
The energy transition is just that, a ‘transition’, and this will affect different companies in the offshore energy supply chain at different speeds. When Maersk Supply Service set up its dedicated offshore wind business unit, how much of revenue, roughly, did it forecast the group would be seeing coming in from ‘non-offshore-oil’ contracts by 2025 or 2030?
Getting a larger share of our revenue from non-oil and gas related activities is a key part of the strategy for Maersk Supply Service. Our current target is one third of revenue by the end of the year, and we will revisit this during our strategic planning this fall. We are pleased that we are on track with this through our ongoing work in the renewables sector, ocean cleaning, and deep-sea minerals. Going forward we see floating wind making up a large portion of our non-oil and gas related activities.
Of course, the pace of development in offshore wind, whether it’s bottom-fixed or floating, has its own external constraints such as access to capital, technology and regulations, that we must be aligned with. At the same time, the future energy mix will still require a contribution from offshore oil and gas which will continue to make up a portion of our business, in addition to new industries.
One of the key distinctions often drawn between offshore oil & gas and offshore wind is the need to install tens or even 100 turbines per project rather than just one or two large drilling or production platforms, for instance – ‘efficiency at scale’ as you put in your presentation. What are the challenges implicit in this, from Maersk Supply Service’s standpoint, and how would you see your company handling the logistics of such operations when it comes to building the first utility-scale floating wind farms?
The main challenge facing floating wind installation is applying a “manufacturing” approach where oil & gas contractors are used to operating around complex one-off units. In other words, we need to constantly seek efficiency in our processes, methods and technologies to capture any possible productivity gains.
This requires that we take a more holistic view over the “production” process, encompassing both the investment phase (in wind farm architecture or design of the key components such as floaters and cables), the introduction of new technologies, and the operational phase. Among all relevant parties involved, early engagement, collaboration and information sharing is critical to meeting the challenge.
An optimised operational sequence will play a key role. It will require the seamless integration of logistics between fabrication, integration and installation, and we need to investigate which assets will be best able to provide the required services. For example, we must evaluate how some vessels could be leveraged across the logistics value chain, from integration to installation.
During operations, wind turbines will need to be maintained and the logistics surrounding maintenance will also have to be optimised, with new technologies and new approaches continuously being evaluated.
Are there any particular tailorings needed to your vessels – presumably the AHTs and CSVs most of all – when it comes to floating wind turbine installation?
Our current vessels perfectly match the specifications required for installation of floating wind turbines and do not require any tailoring to support the demonstrator projects of today. That being said, to meet the demands of large, commercial wind farms in the future, we may have to revisit if and how our vessels need to be modified.
Nevertheless, we believe that the scale of these projects will provide enough volume of work and stability to fuel such alterations to current vessels or the development of new generation of vessels to achieve the level of efficiency required.
In 2018, Maersk Supply Service teamed up with Vestas to develop a crane-based system called the Vertical Installer that aimed to cut the cost of offshore wind turbine installation. Has that project advanced further and are there any other technology areas to you see as ripe for innovation in floating and offshore wind?
Maersk Supply Service is currently developing a unique and innovative concept which will enable the industry to speed up installation time significantly for bottom fixed turbines, resulting in direct costs savings as well as faster grid connection. All in all, it makes a significant positive difference in the pursuit of making offshore wind more competitive in the future.
We expect to disclose further later in the year. We also have a number of other innovation projects related to offshore wind such as blade maintenance technology and an innovative solution that can power anchored vessels with renewable power instead of fossil fuel for the auxiliary engines.
Maersk Supply Service’s track-record of working in offshore oil & gas projects worldwide gives you particular insight into a range of regionally specific demands of working in different countries' ports and harbours. With the World Bank estimating that floating wind power could take up a leading role in the energy production mix of many national markets, including India, Morocco, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Vietnam – adding over 2TW to the global fleet in the coming decades – what potential do you see here for an international maritime contractor such as your company?
Maersk Supply Service has been operating around the world for more than 50 years, and has local offices in 10 countries from Canada to Australia. We are also part of AP Moller – Maersk which operates in 130 countries. This global reach and experience is an advantage which allows us to support our clients regardless of where they operate. We have comprehensive experience adapting to local regulatory landscapes, from logistics to local content requirements.
Discussion of the coming ‘Blue Economy’ is taking a more prominent place on the energy sector’s agenda. As a diversified maritime contractor – with an interest not only in floating wind but also ocean-cleaning, deepsea mining and offshore oil & gas decommissioning – how do you see this wider market developing for the company and the international offshore energy industry?
We recognise that the Blue Economy is developing rapidly and we are well placed to take an active part in these new industries. It is part of our strategy, and it is part of our vision – to actively take part in solving the energy challenges of tomorrow. Many of our customers in these new industries are almost completely new to the offshore world, and we bring marine experience to the table to help their projects succeed and be developed in the most sustainable way.
Many of our customers in these new industries are almost completely new to the offshore world.
The oceans are our workplace, and our crews are exposed to this environment every day. That is one reason we are proud to support The Ocean Cleanup, an NGO aiming to rid the oceans from plastic, and be part of the solution. At the end of the day, the sustainable development of marine resources is not only critical to our planet, but to our business as well. Maersk Supply Service is also currently exploring how it could contribute to marine spatial planning initiatives, as they form the basis of a sustainable Blue Economy. This will help countries achieve the subsea data necessary to think ahead and develop a responsible plan for their marine space.