Northern Offshore UK strengthened its position in the thriving North Sea drilling market yesterday with the £375million acquisition of two rigs.
The Aberdeen-based company, which was only founded in February, said the purchase of semisubmersibles GSF Arctic II and GSF Arctic IV from Transocean would also lead to a significant rise in its workforce by the end of the decade.
Northern employs about 100 people – most of them offshore – but this will rise to more than 400 following the acquisition of the two rigs.
The firm is expected to take on a substantial number of existing workers on the GSF Arctic II and GSF Arctic IV.
Transocean said the deal would complete its previously announced undertakings to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) related to the merger with GlobalSantaFe.
Northern Offshore general manager John Monks said: “There was significant competition to acquire the rigs and we are delighted that we have secured them.
“This is a significant step in the development of Northern Offshore and good news for Aberdeen and the UK sector as a whole.
“The Arctic II and Arctic IV are established North Sea assets with a strong reputation and we are committed to keeping them here.”
Northern – whose parent is based in Houston – now has a European fleet of five drilling rigs and one floating production vessel. More than £600million has been spent to date on building up this fleet and Mr Monks said future growth plans may include further acquisitions.
The Arctic II and Arctic IV are contracted to drill in the UK North Sea until late 2008 and late 2010 respectively. These contracts will continue under the new ownership.
Mr Monks added: “These rigs can currently command day rates in excess of $400,000 . . . and we have advised the OFT that we have firm intentions to keep them working in UK waters for at least the next three years.”
He was confident that there would be work for these rigs in the North Sea well into the next decade as operators continued to extend the lives of their mature assets and also develop new fields.
Northern was in the news last week when it emerged that some of its employees were stranded on one of its rigs off the coast of northern Russia because of immigration red tape.
About 40 workers were caught up in the incident in the Pechora Sea before a crew change took place, more than a week later than planned.