Recently an industry pundit said to me, “I’ve told people that if I was going to go into the marine business, I’d go into the ocean-bottom cable business. Streamer is getting crowded.”
Yet streamer is exactly where one new entrant, Dolphin Interconnect Solutions, plans to go. Dolphin’s board hopes to raise new equity of approximately NOK 360 million (about US $58 million) in a private placement in what the company calls a “change of strategic direction.”
I’ll say. Dolphin is an IT company. But not to worry. According to the company’s website, “The board underlines that the current IT business will be continued and that it sees future potential in the current business. Furthermore, the board sees interesting synergies with the two business areas as the marine seismic industry needs considerable data processing resources to acquire and process seismic data, and Dolphin will [explore whether] the current data interconnect solutions can improve the performance in the seismic applications.”
The general plan is to establish a division within Dolphin that will focus on offering marine seismic services to the global oil and gas industry. The company hopes to establish a full range of marine geophysical services, including contract seismic, multiclient, and processing partnerships. It has attracted a management team with extensive industry experience to head and grow the new division. This team has access to a high-end fleet of seismic vessels, a group experienced in the multiclient market, and debt financing at attractive terms.
According to Dolphin’s chairman of the board, Atle Jacobsen, the decision was made due to the board’s sense that there would be strong demand for seismic services going forward. He added that the company has an agreement with GC Rieber Shipping to secure a high grade of vessel flexibility and low operational risk.
“The high-capacity vessels will not add to the already known industry streamer count,” he said. “The seismic industry is a people’s business, and I am very pleased that we have attracted a top-tier group of people with extensive experience from the seismic industry.”
Despite this assertion, Dolphin is receiving bids from equipment manufacturers for streamer packages.
So how can this newcomer compete with the big boys? The plan is to offer “the most cost-efficient vessels in the industry.” The new vessels will offer high capacity (14 streamers) and power on small, fast platforms that can rapidly move between jobs. It also hopes to time the arrival of its second newbuild 3-D vessel, NB 533, to coincide with “an anticipated strong recovery” in 2012.
Is 2010 the right time to start a new marine seismic company? Only time will tell.
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