No-one could have envisaged a situation where the substance on which the world economy depends suddenly is in glut and its price too low to warrant pumping it from the depths of the sea. There are reports that a large proportion of the rig supply shipping businesses may face at least fi nancial restructuring if not plain bankruptcy. Was this downturn in activity visible at Aberdeen on my recent visit? Yes up to a point.
Firstly, there would usually be rarely fewer than say eight rig boats in Aberdeen Bay awaiting orders or a berth. This time there were two. And whereas in the inner reaches of the port there would usually be several boats five or six abreast in short term lay up, this time there were again only a couple.
However, such a drop in activity is relative and any one not familiar with the Aberdeen scene of a year or two back would see today a very busy port with most of the berths in action working on sending out the next laden vessel to replenish an exploration or production rig or platform. And some of those rig vessels were of the newest and most sophisticated designs with fewer from the 80s and early 90s.
The rig boats also feature in the engineering businesses geared to the harbour exemplifed by several vessels at the Dales Marine yard which was dry-docking the Skandi Foula 3,252,’02, Norwegian owned and Aberdeen managed though built in Ukraine. A smart London registered Enea 3,639,’10 of Gulf Offshore headed out to the rigs – she was built in Romania, while the fine versatile tug-supply vessel Havila Venus 6,455,’09 was Turkish built : all indicating that the oil industry’s problems will be reverberating across many countries and on many continents.
Then there was general cargo working. The smart Icelandic Eimskip owned Svartfoss was loading for Norway and Russia. Iceland knows a thing or two about financial crises and they seem to have pulled through. Wilson Alster was the only general trader in port. The Streamline dedicated container wharf was readying for the arrival of Daroja from the Northern Isles her entanglement with the bunker tanker Erin Wood back in October temporarily forgotten. The freight ro-ro Helliar in from Shetland completed the scene.