Rig for success
Opus Offshore Pte Ltd are building a new class of drilling rig that is already winning tenders worldwide
Writers Matt Bone
Project Manager Arron Rampling
Opus Offshore was formed in early 2011 as a result of Vern Westerhout and David Smallwood's desire to build modern mid-water drill ships to service the substantial market in mid-deep water. A strategic alliance was formed with Shanghai Shipyard to jointly develop the design, finalise costing and agree construction schedules. Opus Offshore provided the equipment specifications. In September of 2011, contracts were signed for the construction of two vessels along with options for two more.
The company is headquartered in Singapore and has a large project office within the Shanghai Shipyard complex. Both offices employ a multinational staff, all with many years of experience in the off shore drilling construction and operations business.
Eastern Build, Western design
Peter Burnett, Operations Manager of Opus Offshore, has seen the company grow substantially since its beginning in 2011. "The company is built on a solid foundation of vastly experienced managers who have worked in the industry for many years, but because we are currently building our vessels in China, there is a degree of wariness from the international drilling community about standards of manufacturing and processes being applied during production. For us, this is just a hurdle that we can quickly overcome and we will prove just how reliable these vessels will be."
The Tiger Class vessels currently under construction will have a high specification 8 point mooring system and not the more complex DP systems that established oilfield construction companies in Korea & Singapore are building. Although this is a shift from the popular DP configuration, Burnett is confident that now that the mooring system technology has advanced and will be up to the rigours of deep water drilling and activities. "Our vessels currently being constructed in the shipyard in China have been designed and project managed by our team of 65 engineers and inspectors. They have been putting western build techniques into practice and working them into a new design of rig. The Tiger Class vessels will be big enough to meet operational standards but small enough to offer versatility and different applications when required," clarifies Burnett.
Marketing the Brand
When you start up a company in a highly competitive market, such as offshore drilling, there are two approaches you can take to getting your name known, aggressive and soft. Both have their own merits and their own drawbacks. Aggressive marketing can take competitors by surprise and garner instant business across multiple mediums, but cost a lot of money upfront, whereas a soft approach can win customers over a longer period of time and be generally more cost effective but slower to gain profit. Opus Offshore went for the softer marketing campaign in order to allow them sufficient time to have their vessels ready for operations and because the company felt that they wanted a friendlier, more approachable feel for the company. "We wanted to work on a softer marketing campaign for the company for three reasons: Firstly, we needed time to ensure our vessels met specifications and were ready for operations. Secondly, we felt that marketing ourselves as the cost effective but equally qualified alternative to big companies was a key strategy and one that would work well. Finally, we wanted to use tried and tested marketing to propel the company forward and that is by doing industry research and recording consumer feedback from ad campaigns," explains Burnett.
A Tender invitation
A soft approach to marketing has paid great dividends for Opus in recent months, as they have been invited by several globally recognised brands to tender for a variety of projects across Asia, Africa and Europe. The invitations from these companies to present at tendering meetings are a sure fire sign that Opus is moving in the right direction and building up a strong reputation in the market. One key reason Burnett believes has really helped put the Opus name on the board is due to the cost efficient and highly competitive nature of the company. By building their own drilling ships in China and not having to purchase them from elsewhere, Opus can tender for a project at a much lower price and still remain well within operating budgets. "As we are currently building all 4 of our drilling vessels in China, the costs involved are generally lower, which means we can bid for a contract at a lower cost. This does not mean we have skimped on quality, far from it. We have ensured the vessels are of internationally defined quality and will pass any and all inspections and certifications required," reasons Burnett.
Supplying Our Shipyard
Opus Offshore's Chinese shipyard has become a hub of activity over the last 12 months. Building the Tiger Class vessels has become a turnkey project for the company. With the ships requiring a variety of machinery and equipment, suppliers have been sought out from near and far. Opus has utilised both local and international companies to help bring in the required materials on time and on budget. "Two of the most important aspects to look for when we purchase products from our suppliers is quality and deliverability. Cost does play a part but when you want the best quality items and need them to be available for a tender, prices will always rise. We have identified the best suppliers globally to work with and are currently working with local companies to facilitate other supply requisites," cites Burnett.
With the vessel Tiger 1 nearing completion and being invited to participate in several key tenders, the future for Opus Offshore is looking very bright indeed. In a market that is dominated by a few large companies, Opus face strong competition to compete in the industry, but Burnett is not fazed by this: "We are very well positioned to work on the tenders that we are currently bidding for without worrying what the competition is doing, as global companies may look to work with us due to our vessels offering very unique capabilities. We have vast, industry relevant expertise and knowledge in all aspects of our business, from the CEO down to our engineers and ship builders and we will implement this on all our projects."