Brokers believe new deals for anchor-handling tug supply (AHTS) ships in the North Sea are setting all-time records.

Christen Sveaas’ Viking Supply Ships has fixed a trio of vessels at a “monstrous” £190,000 ($233,000) per day for rig moves, thought to be the highest number ever seen in the spot market.

Spain’s Repsol had to pay this rate for 19,050-bhp Brage Viking (built 2012) and Njord Viking (built 2011) for the Stena Don rig move in the UK.

The vessels were booked for four days, with eight days of options.

Viking’s 19,040-bhp Loke Viking (built 2010) also bagged this rate from Serica Energy for the PBLJ rig move over four days plus 10 days of options.

If all the optional days were declared, Viking would bank a staggering $9.8m for the work over a two-week period.

Serica also paid £180,000 per day for Siem Offshore’s 28,000-bhp Siem Ruby (built 2010) for five days, plus nine optional days.

On the Norwegian side, ConocoPhillips booked DOF’s 36,000-bhp Skandi Skansen (built 2011) for the TO Norge rig move at NOK 2.3m ($231,000) per day.

These deals are up from £175,000 earlier in the month, meaning the $200,000 barrier was broken for the first time since a vessel topped that mark in 2007.

Activity has increased since the end of pandemic restrictions and tonnage lists have tightened following the sale of many ships out of the sector, plus an increase in term deals for others.

Requirements still outstanding

All eyes will be on the next jobs to see if rates can rise further.

DOF itself is seeking to charter two or three ships for a tow of the Knarr floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel in July, and Anasuria is out in the market for heading control work next month.

Both UK and Norwegian markets are currently sold out of spot ships. The operational fleet stands at only 25 units.

A total of 12 ships remain in lay-up, but these are older units not seen as suitable for reactivation.

Lorentzen & Co offshore broker Mads Kristiansen said the offshore support vessel (OSV) segment has seen an impressive rise in 2022.

Brazil and the North Sea are among the best-performing markets, with current utilisation around 80% to 90%, he added.

Decade-high levels

In general, owners in the North Sea are seeing the best spot rates for more than a decade, as platform supply vessels prosper too.

“Although the global lay-up portfolio is significant, justification for reactivations of long-term stacked vessels is difficult. The limited commercial supply, a nearly empty newbuilding book and increased rig activity has led to grounds for sincere optimism, extending beyond 2022,” Kristiansen said.

Weak balance sheets remain a challenge for newbuilding activity, coupled with restricted availability of oil and gas finance and an unclear path for fuel alternatives.

But Kristiansen sees the Ukraine conflict and wide-ranging uncertainty in the financial markets as grounds for concern.

“The current rise of the offshore vessel market may be less magnificent than in the conventional shipping space; nonetheless, there appears to be prosperous times ahead,” he concluded.

Projects increasing

AHST rates have more than doubled over a month.

Clarksons Research assesses numbers at more than six times the 10-year average.

Norwegian broker Westshore has said activity is high this summer due to an increased number of projects.

“The majority of the AHTS fleet has been fixed on medium-term projects. As an example, Hywind Tampen has fixed up four AHTSs for wind farm installation work,” it said.