One of the fastest growing areas of business is the offshore access industry. The growth of this industry is mainly caused by the increased demand for safe, cheap and reliable offshore access solutions. These offshore access solutions are especially popular in the offshore oil & gas sector and the offshore wind market segment. They use these systems to transfer personnel offshore, so that they can perform maintenance on a wind turbine, for example. The industry can be a bit complex for outsiders, so the purpose of this post is to familiarize you with the players in this industry.
Access to offshore platforms is provided via a motion compensating connecting gangway. From the strategic point of view, it can be said that Offshore Solutions uses the generic strategy of differentiation in this industry.
The Offshore Solution has four major strengths:
1) Personnel lives on a supply vessel, therefore quick access to the platform is possible.
2) The company minimizes travel related accidents due to less travel time before and after the workday.
3) Spare parts can be stored and transported on a vessel.
4) The company‟s system is at high safety.
Yet, the company also has weaknesses:
1) System can operate only up to a wave height of 2.5 meters. The new Ampelmann E system operates up to 4 meters.
2) In order to use this system, a landing platform has to be installed at the object before the system can be used, which makes the system less flexible and more expensive. It adds up to a total lead-time of three months.
This company only focuses on offshore access and moves over one million workers to platforms each year. They own a fleet of 233 helicopters that operate globally on seven continents (CHC, 2011).
Within the helicopter industry the company follows the generic strategy of focus, as they only serve the demand for the offshore industry. However, within the offshore access systems industry, they use differentiation in order to distinguish from competitors like Offshore Solutions.
CHC has two main competitive advantages over Offshore Solutions.
The first is given by the offshore industry itself. The industry is very conservative and has been using the helicopter for decades and will use it in the future, even though more advanced solutions are available on the market. Because of this, CHC Helicopters is momentarily the best choice to begin an offshore career. Moreover, CHC has a fast response to customers demand. In case of unforeseen occurrences by clients, the helicopter has the smallest lead-time moving personnel to a platform. Therefore, the key success factor of availability is very well served. This displays a great advantage in an industry where downtime of a platform is a major cost factor.
Nevertheless, the company has weaknesses:
1) Particular weather conditions, such as fog and heavy wind, can prevent CHC‟ helicopters to operate correctly.
2) CHC has a high rate of accidents and is therefore less safe compared to other companies.
3) It has the highest overall costs.
Windcat Workboats operates small specialized vessels that are directly navigated towards the turbine until it has direct contact to the landing platform. In order to compensate wave movement, the vessel goes to „full throttle‟, which makes the boat ‘stick’‟ to the turbine. Its main advantage is that it is more convenient and faster to use at calm seas. Moreover, no adaption has to be made at the vessel, because it was built for only the purpose of transferring personnel offshore. The company itself is well established in the European market. It already has two offices, one in the Netherlands and one in the United Kingdom (Windcat, 2011). One of their main field of operations is the United Kingdom where they have a strong market position.
Yet, the system is not as reliable and safe as an offshore access system. Whenever the wave height is too high, it becomes too dangerous to operate the Windcat. Furthermore, the system is less flexible in terms of moving. While the offshore access system can be shipped on a regular container vessel and be assembled on location, moving an entire vessel (like a Windcat Workboat) is more complex and expensive. This might be the reason that Windcat Workboats have only been operated in Europe.
Marine Aluminium AS and TTS Energy are forming the „Uptime Alliance‟ which is the newest player on the market (Uptime Alliance, 2011). It has the same advantages like Offshore Solutions. It also uses the generic strategy of differentiation in order to distinguish from competitors. Each of their systems is specialized according to the type of operation and therefore less flexible in comparison to its competitors who have more adaptable systems. Even though this system is safer than the helicopter, the gangway movement depends on the current wave height, increasing the possibility of accidents.