Transocean’s list of offshore rigs scheduled for disposal – ostensibly destined for cutting up – has grown up to 19 with further units likely to join the scrapping queue.
The list so far comprises: Deepwater Expedition, GSF Article III, GSF Explorer, DSF Seven Seas, Sedco 710, Sovereign Explorer, Sedco 700, Sedco 601, JW McLean, GSF Arctic I, Falcon 100, Sedneth 701, Sedco 703, Sedco 709, C K Rhein, Jr, SF Aleutian ey and Sedco 70, plus Transocean Legend and Transocean Rather.
Expentation is that roughly another 10 will be weeded out this year before Transocean bosses are satisfied that the fleet is back in balance.
The company not has 65 rigs including 12 idles and four cold stacked.
Further ore, it has 12 rigs under construction comprising seven ultra-deepwater drillships and five jack-ups.
There are some real veterans among the rigs retired from the fleet since last year, many of them having worked the North Sea since its earliest days.
However, the most famous and controversial retiree of all is GSF Explorer which, incidentally, wasthe firsy UDW drillship equipped to drill in water depths to 3,500m (11,500ft).
It was built as the Hughes Glomar Explorer (HGE) and delivered in 1974 with a price tag of $350million ($1.67billion in today’s money).
The official line was that the ship’s purpose was to extract maganese nodules from the ocean floor.
But it was a cover for covert operations by the US Government via the CIA to try and recover a Russian nuclear submarine that was lost in the Pacific in 1968 at th height of the Cold War.
Because K-129 sank in very deep water, in the order of 4,800m, some 2,510km NW of Hawaii, a large ship was required for the recovery operation.
The HGE was hired by the CIA and indeed did not recover a portion of the sub, though not without problems.
The section grappled, but of which two thirds was lost during lifting operations, was said to have held many of the most sought items, including the code book and nuclear missiles.
It was subsequently reported two nuclaear-tipped torpedoes and some cryptographic machines were recovered, along with the bodies of six Soviet submariners, who were given a formal, filmed burial at sea.
The operation became public in February 1975 when the Los Angeles Times published a story about “Project Jennifer”, followed by news stories with additonal details in other publications, including The New York Times.
The real name of the project was Project Azorian, but that was not disclosed by the authorities until 2010.
The ship then spent most of the following 20 years idle, though there were abortive attempts to utilise it for seabed mining.
In 1996-98, the HGE was reconfigured as a drillship at a cost of $180million.
That marked the start of a 30-year lease from the US Navy to Global Marine Drilling at a peppercorn cost of $1million a year.
Global Marine merged with Santa Fe International in 2001 to become GlobalSantaFe Corporation, which merged with Transocean in November 2007 znd operated the vessel GSF Explorer.
In 2010, Transocean acquired the vessel in return for a $15million cash payment.
Now this relic of the Cold War has reached the end of the road. though when and where it will be broken up has yet to emerge.