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ince its relatively recent establishment in 1997, specialist oilfield services division Wagenborg Offshore has concentrated on bringing its expertise to bear on the needs of oil companies developing the Kashagan oilfield and other identified resources in the Caspian Sea. Wagenborg Kazakhstan and Wagenborg Foxdrill are the two subsidiaries of the offshore division. The first manages the company’s operations in the Caspian while the latter is a specialist in assembling and moving drilling rigs. It carries out, for example, most of the rig moves for the Aberdeen-based drilling company KCA Deutag, which has major operations in Northern Russia as well as the Caspian.

Wagenborg Offshore is parent group Royal Wag of experience in providin Sea. Operations directo O’Hanlon why its expert operations in Kazakhsta



a Netherlands based company whose genborg has more than a century ng maritime services in the Baltic or Johan Adriaanse explains to John tise is in demand to support oilfield an

Wa g e n b o r g O f f s h o r e

The Baltic and the Caspian share some important characteristics. Both are shallow and both experience icy conditions at certain times of the year. Wagenborg Offshore established its operations office at Bautino at the tip of a promontory in the northern Caspian, and also an administration office 100 miles further south at Aktau, quickly becoming the largest marine services operator in Kazakhstan, says operations director Johan Adriaanse. “We don’t do any engineering work there. The only reason for our

in the Kashagan field for the offshore workers. Our customer there is local branch of Saipem but they are utilised in general for Agip KCO operations.” It was a remarkable feat, he emphasises, to build or refurbish these units within the space of 18 months and then ship them from the Netherlands to the Caspian via the Rhine, Main and Danube waterways and the Black Sea, where they were reassembled. Kazakhstan is a large country with a relatively small population and little maritime background to draw on. Overseas companies operating

“The potential just within the Kashagan field is massive—and there are more reserves to be explored and exploited” office is to have a shore-based management team controlling and supporting our fleet of supply vessels, barges and accommodation platforms.” Altogether around 350 people are employed in onshore and offshore positions, the latter working back to back, four weeks on and four weeks off. Sixty-five per cent of staff are Kazakh nationals. The fleet started with two ice breaking supply vessels, Arcticaborg and Antarcticaborg, which were specially designed for the conditions encountered in the Caspian. These were deployed in 1998 when Wagenborg Offshore entered the Caspian as the first marine contractor of the North Caspian Sea Production Sharing Agreement (NCSPSA). “The ice breaking supply vessels are the core of our fleet, it might be said,” says Adriaanse. “When we came in with them they were a novelty—two ice breaking supply vessels that had been specifically designed and built for the north Caspian where you have to cope with shallow water clearance of just half a metre under the keel! We know all about shallow water from the Dutch coast, and all about ice in the Baltic, and that allowed us to come up with the right solution.” Since then the overall size of the fleet has increased to some 30 units—which may sound like a dramatic increase, but it’s only a fraction of what it might become in the next 10 years, he says. “The potential just within the Kashagan field is massive—and there are more reserves to be explored and exploited. Since April 2008 we have brought in six accommodation vessels each able to house 320 people to provide accommodation

there are required to train and develop local staff, but it made real commercial sense for Wagenborg Offshore to establish its own maritime academy. The only establishments remaining after the collapse of the USSR were Russian, and after effectively 100 years of Russian rule the government was understandably keen to follow a path of self-reliance. However, Wagenborg was eventually able to persuade the Kazakh authorities to support the idea, and the academy was established at Aktau with the help of the Willem Barentsz Maritime Institute of Terschelling and with some funding from the Dutch government. “Between us we brought in the knowledge to start the college,” explains Adriaanse’. The college really took off in 2004/5—the facilities have been limited up until now but the classrooms are there and we are working on a programme to further educate the teachers.” At present the college is able to qualify students up to the level of Second Officer, but it is planned to bring the level up fairly quickly so that future Chief Officers and Masters can be trained there to the same standard as at the Terschelling campus. At the same time €500,000 is being allocated to upgrading the equipment at the school. For example, the students are currently learning to cope with shipboard emergencies using desktop simulators—while this software is very sophisticated, it is no substitute for full-blown simulator suites, and these should be in place by November this year, according to Adriaanse. The medium of instruction at the academy is

Wa g e n b o r g O f f s h o r e

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English, reflecting the importance of universal and instant communication throughout the oil and gas industry. In practice, if a crew is made up entirely of Kazakhs they will probably speak to one another in Russian, but they need to be able to deal with any emergency. There is nothing new about this, though the recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has certainly concentrated minds on HSE matters. “Kashagan is high-risk compared to other reserves round the world because of the extremely high percentage

of ‘sour gas’ (hydrogen sulphide), so if something went wrong here the consequences would be that much worse,” Adriaanse points out. “It just gives all the more reason for the contractors and consortium to be very careful in their operations.” Wagenborg Offshore has also brought its expertise to another major Eastern European oilfield. The open sea off Russia’s Sakhalin Island may seem fundamentally different from the shallow waters of the Caspian but the all-important ratio between ice thickness and operating depth is similar. Wagenborg provides a number of vessels in a joint venture with the Russian company Femco, which operates them. “Sakhalin is an important operation for us, and we would like to extend it and continue it,” says Adriaanse, adding that there are many other ice-affected coastal oilfields where Wagenborg Offshore could play a similar role.