DISCOVER Magazine #7

Naviera Integral’s fast moves in Mexico

Published in category: Offshore Wind

As one of the foremost providers of fast crew and cargo boats operating in the Bay of Campeche in the Mexican sector of the Gulf of Mexico, Naviera Integral operates with a fleet of 27 vessels – which is soon to increase to 29 with two new units under construction.

Currently the company’s fleet comprises 16 Damen vessels – nine Fast Crew Suppliers with a Sea Axe bow and seven Stan Tenders, all built by Damen since 1999.

Why so many? Juan Pablo Vega Torre, vice president of maintenance and process management at Naviera Integral puts it down to a quality product. “We have been working with Damen since 1998 and every year, from each delivery, the quality has been improved on each vessel. The maintenance cost of their vessels is always lower. Their vessels operate perfectly in the market that we have here in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Timely delivery is part of the reason too: “Damen is always trustworthy because they always deliver the vessels in the time they programme delivery. We have not faced any delays in any one of the 16 vessels we have built with Damen,” says Vega Torre. “And that is very important for us because we have timing with the contracts with our clients. That is sometimes why we prefer Damen over other shipbuilders.”

Two newbuilds are set to join the Naviera fleet in 2014: Both are Sea Axe design Fast Crew Suppliers, built in Vietnam, with a length of 52 metres, and together they represent a multi-million dollar investment.

With Pemex as its major client, Naviera needs to anticipate requirements for the fast vessel market in the Bay of Campeche, where there are nearly 70 installations to support.

“We try to work hand in hand with Damen to fulfil these requirements and we programme our construction accordingly,” Vega Torre explains.

Today the company boasts about 80% of the crew transfer market offshore Mexico, and 65-70% of the fast supply sector for oil and gas-related operations. Vega Torre says that success is because it has concentrated on satisfying its clients and providing good service. “The quality of our vessels goes hand in hand with the safety of the personnel and the crews we transport,” he says. “We are completely focussed on safety of the people at sea. We concentrate on getting all the people to their destination safely.”

That means concentrating on crew comfort during voyages to installations. While crew amenities are important to vessel design, so is maintenance as Naviera vessels work hard, operating 365 days a year and sometimes they make three trips a day. The patented Sea Axe bow design is predominantly used for cargo ships but is used for crew boats too, because it performs well: “There is a lot less sea-sickness for people,” Vega Torre says, since the design provides very good stability with less rolling, even in severe seas. “Our vessels run about 20-22 knots (70 kph) with low consumption of fuel. The design is perfect.” He says the Sea Axe consumes 10% less fuel than a conventional monohull: “The client is very happy with fuel consumption with that kind of vessel.”

The Bay of Campeche fields lie close to shore – 100 to 200 kilometres. Water depths are shallow but it is a region renowned as a breeding ground for Atlantic hurricanes. Crew boats typically carry 80 to 140 personnel, and offer transit times of two to three hours, rendering helicopters too costly. After selling its tugboat division in 2010 to focus on oil and gas, Naviera has doubled its demand for newbuilds, from one or two, to four units a year, validating its decision to focus on oil and gas alone. In future Vega Torre expects clients to demand greater environmental performance from fleets, with less fuel consumption, less engine pollution, combined with better transit times. Better engine technology will be sought also, he suggests, to provide predictive maintenance, with alarms and safety-shutdown systems to avoid major malfunctions.

With a new draft energy bill set to end the Pemex monopoly on the country’s oil and gas sector, and a national ambition to boost oil production from around 2.5 million barrels a day, Naviera’s offshore client base could very soon increase.

Naviera is focussed on Mexico for now, but Pemex plans for expansion may mean the oil and gas transport sector will widen: in early 2013 Pemex indicated a US $25.3 billion investment plan, of which $20 billion (79%) was allocated to upstream operations. If similar figures are planned for 2014 by Pemex, then Naviera looks set for a busy year ahead….

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