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Low oil prices no deterrent to Middle East offshore marine players

Oil prices reached their lowest level since early 2009 in the early part of the week with Brent crude briefly dipping below $40 per barrel and West Texasa Intermediate, at around $37 per barrel, reflecting OPEC’s decision not to adjust its strategy and maintain crude production at current levels last Friday.

Despite the gloomy price picture, however, oil and gas service executives in the Arabian Gulf are quietly upbeat as they note moves by Iran to reform and simplify procedures for offering contracts to foreign energy firms. Significant investment will be required – Iran is aiming to attract up to $30bn to support its plans to raise output by some 500,000 bpd within six months of sanctions being lifted.

It is against this backdrop that Gulf energy companies continue to jostle for position, a latest example being the recent acquisition by Chalmers Holdings of Renaissance group subsidiary Topaz Engineering Limited in order to expand its presence in the offshore energy sector.

Chalmers confirmed at the Seatrade Offshore Marine and Workboat Middle East event in early October that it had bought the ship repair and marine service business from Omani-listed Renaissance for an undisclosed “fair market price”.

Renaissance for its part had made no secret of its intention to dispose of the group’s ship repair division, which includes Nico International, in order to focus on its core business of offshore support vessel (OSV) operation through Topaz Energy and Marine (Topaz Marine), which was not part of the sale.

Dubai-based Topaz Marine continues operates a diversified fleet of close to 100 OSVs in the Gulf, the Caspian and West Africa.

Chalmers, a diversified engineering and trading organisation with offices in Abu Dhabi, Jebel Ali and Dubai, wasted no time in revealing some of its plans to boost capacity. It will invest $8-10m in the newly acquired Mussafah shipyard in Abu Dhabi where the channel will be dredged to 8-9 metres, enabling the float-out of larger energy modules. Meanwhile a new jetty will be constructed to provide more space for work alongside.

Other facilities covered in the Chalmers acquisition include a repair yard in Abu Dhabi Ports Company where a recently refurbished 2,000-tonne floating dock is now sited, as well as large workshops in Fujairah and Dubai Maritime City, and another workshop at Al Quoz in Dubai.

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