Remotely Operated Offshore Support Vessels are Enabling the Oil and Gas Sector to Reach Greater Depths

Offshore oil exploration began in the 19th century off the coasts of the United States. Henry L. Williams, an American industrialist, is widely regarded as being a pioneer in this area when he set up a project to extract oil from Summerland field, a site located off the coast of California, in the 1890s. However, when the 1973 Arab Oil Crisis compelled the U.S. to take energy security seriously, offshore exploration received a further boost.

The offshore support vessels market, which developed to meet the growing demand for supplies and equipment on offshore and subsea exploration sites, has only grown since then. However, it is interesting to note that despite the cause of offshore exploration being strongly endorsed by countries such as the United States, three of the five largest offshore oil reserves today are in the Persian Gulf. This region is thus especially important for companies in the global offshore support vessels market.

With regulatory winds blowing constantly and fiercely in the oil and gas sector, constant improvement and innovation is crucial for companies supplying products to this sector. And companies in the offshore support vessels market are no exception. With offshore oil rigs being exposed to demanding conditions and venturing progressively deeper into the sea, conventional offshore support vessels are simply not enough. That has prompted companies to offer remotely operated vehicles to support offshore projects. 

Tracing Growth of Global offshore Support Vessels Market

Innovation has been at the heart of the global offshore support vehicles industry since its easy days. In the case of remotely operated offshore support vehicles, especially, commercial companies have drawn heavily from the technology used the defense industry to recover ordnance lost in deep waters during naval exercises and tests.

The commercially-used remove offshore support vessels are commonly referred to as the work-class ROVs – their primary application is to support operations at an offshore oil field. U.S.-based firm, HydroProducts, was among the first to develop ROVs for use on offshore fields. Two of its products – the RCV-225 and RCV-150 – laid the foundations of the offshore support vessels market.

But when offshore oil wells started being set up in depths that were beyond the reach of human divers, the use of remotely operated offshore support vessels became even more important in the 1980s. However, this phase was also the toughest for the offshore support vessels industry because technological development received a blow from the global economic recession, which wasn’t helped in any way by the freefalling oil prices.

Innovation to Remain Cornerstone of Global Offshore Support Vessels Market

As the global recession eased and companies were able to fund more R&D initiatives, ROVs evolved again to carry out hundreds of different tasks required at an oil field. From inspecting a site to checking whether subsea pipelines are structurally sound to place manifolds at thousands of feet under the sea, the role offshore support vessels now ranges from initial construction to lifelong maintenance once the offshore site is operational.

In 1993, JAMSTEC set a new benchmark for the global offshore support vessels market with the launch of ROV Kaiko, which successfully reached the Challenger Deep, the deepest part in the world, located in the Marina Trench. Thus, with remotely operated offshore support vessels that could reach depths of over 10,000 feet, it became clear that no matter how challenging the task at hand was, ROVs could be relied on.

With an increase in the count of offshore rigs worldwide, the demand for offshore support vessels is thus expected to remain strong.


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