Fairstar is an interesting new player in the Heavy Lift Market. MarineLink.com recently spoke with Mario Kerssens, Sales & Marketing Director, to discuss the company’s strategy and mission.
MarineLink: Fairstar Heavy Transport is new to the heavy lift market. Can you give to me a brief company background, as well as share the general philosophy of the company?
MK: In 2005 a company stocklisted on the Oslo Bors was established as vehicle to convert two of the world biggest heavy transport barges (Boa 19 & 20) into self-propelled heavy transport ships. The idea was to have two state-of-the-art ships at half the price and in half the bulding time compared to newbuildings. Malta Shipyards was selected for the conversion. Fairstar is a very Dutch organization, with Dutch flagged ships build, run and marketed by very experienced Dutch crews and office personnel. We see these vessels as a starting point for a broad offshore energy service company. Our focus is on the top of the offshore market companies, mainly drilling companies and construction yards.
MarineLink: What market factors do you monitor to validate your building tonnage for this market at this time?
MK: The potential for these ships is impressive, because there is a newbuld cycle on-going in drilling rigs. Added to the high oil price which not only triggers a lot of drilling (moves), but also constructions for production on fast track basis, the need for quick, save and reliable transport has strongly increased the last two years and is expected to continue till at least 2011.
In addition we see tendencies to transport an increasing number of ever growing onshore modules for for instance LNG plants in Australia. Nowadays modules of 2000 T are designed whereas in the past 800 T was about the maximum.
MarineLink: Though "conversion vs. newbuild" is touted as a faster, more cost-effective means to service this market, can you speak to some of the challenges to your approach.
MK: It was quite easy to find and obtain suitable barges. Finding a suitable shipyard was more challenging and by now we have concluded that it would have been better to use a newbuilding yard rather than a shiprepair yard. This type of vessel is very special and demanding, which is not easy in a market place where most subcontractors have full orderbooks combined with a scarcity of qualified personnel. Finalizing the design before cutting steel would have helped as well. All lessons learned from the Fjord conversion are now applied on the Fjell job, which we expect to be smoother and quicker.
MarineLink: Once the fleet is in service, what efficiencies do you depend upon to compete in this market?
MK: We anticipate that our vessels will benefit from the fact that they have some characteritics that set them apart from the bulk of the vessels in the heavy transport market. Our strategy is focussed on optimizing the advantage of the considerable deck space, the small hull draft, the deep submerging draft and combinations of these aspects, in order to win jobs. In addition our vessels are built about 25% cheaper than our competitors fleet renewals so we will keep a healthy balance sheet, enabling to us to attract more investors if appropriate.
MarineLink: What do you consider to be the top challenges to your companies profitability in the coming years?
MK: We need to have a certain amount of luck in our scheduling. With two vessels you potentially face longer mobilizations. But with our vast network worldwide we are so far comfortable we can locate suitable jobs in any area.
MarineLink: How do you envision the company/fleet evolving in the next five years?
MK: It is generally considered that the present heavy transport market contains possibilities for further consolidation. Our focus the next two years is on putting the Ford and Fjell at top level in the market place, serving our demanding clients in the best possible way, and where appropriate with a fresh new approach that will revolutionize this niche market. As soon as we are well established with the main offshore players we will take further steps to broaden our package of services, while keeping the transport part as a backbone.
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