Advanced Technology from U.S. Military will soon find its way into Commercial Diving Operations

The United State Navy has developed the Divers Augmented Vision Display, which is a high-resolution, heads-up display installed directly into a diver’s helmet.  The system will allow the diver to access sonar, text messages, diagrams, and photographs. Significantly, the display will allow for augmented reality videos; technology that allows images and video to be superimposed in real time (think the “monocle” mode in your Yelp app).


This technology will assist divers in recovery and salvage operations by offering real-time positional awareness.  The Naval Sea Systems Command is also working on development of enhanced video systems that will increase diver sight in near zero visibility situations.  Like so many other advancements before, it is only a matter of time before these technologies make their way into commercial diving operations.

Implementation and Concerns Pertaining to the IMO’s Verified Gross Mass Regulations

The International Maritime Organization’s (“IMO”) amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention will become legally binding on July 1, 2016.  The changes to SOLAS require exporters to verify the weight of the containers before they are received at the port and loaded aboard the ship.


The rules provide two methods for a shipper may obtain the verified gross mass (VGM):

  • Method 1, upon the conclusion of packing and sealing a container, the shipper may weigh, or have arranged that a third party weigh, the packed container.
  • Method 2, the shipper or, by arrangement of the shipper, a third party may weigh all packages and cargo items, including the mass of pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material to be packed in the container, and add the tare mass of the container to the sum of the single masses of the container’s contents.


The new rules have raised numerous concerns, some of which include:

  • Whether there is an agreed format to communicate the verified gross mass;
  • Whether there is a deadline for when the information must be received by the carrier and the terminal operator;
  • Whether the rules obligate the carrier to check the values given by the shipper; and,
  • Whether there is an acceptable margin of error when establishing the verified gross mass.


Although there are many more concerns, there is no doubt that additional unforeseen issues may arise once the requirements are put into practice.

Bankruptcy on the Horizon: Offshore Supply Companies Prepare

Companies engaged in supplying offshore services, an essential corner of the oil sector here in Louisiana, should be preparing for the potential increase in bankruptcies as the worst crude market downturn in decades spreads. More than half of the public companies in the offshore supply-vessel industry face a high probability of restructuring or bankruptcy, according to research conducted by the consulting firm AlixPartners.


Supply vessels are a lifeline to the rigs, hauling everything from people to pipes to food. Moreover, they’re custom-made for the oil industry and depend on the rigs for work; when the rigs slow down, so too does this custom-made supply chain.


There are now more than five supply vessels for each offshore drilling rig, up from roughly three vessels per rig in 2008. With the falling demand, companies have been forced to make hard changes


Close to home, one of Louisiana’s largest offshore supply companies is set to have more than 30 OSVs fleet stacked by year-end as the slump in oil prices continues to wreak havoc on the offshore market. The 30 stacked vessels will represent about half of the company’s OSVs. It’s fleet currently consists of 59 OSVs, but that is expected to increase to 61 vessels if scheduled deliveries in Q4 go according to plan.


Back in April, the company reported 18 new generation OSVs stacked in its Q1 results. At the time, the company said the lay-ups were part of aggressive cost cutting measures undertaken in response to soft market conditions. Other measures included company-wide headcount reductions and across-the-board pay-cuts for shore-side personnel. The company reported that for the third quarter of 2015, revenues were $116.3 million, a decrease of $50.6 million, or 30.3%, from the same period last year.


Following an early December 2015 statement from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, that it was essentially lifting its production target for crude, we should prepare for oil prices to remain lower for longer than previously expected. According to Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest supplier of offshore drilling rigs, the challenging offshore market is expected to last into 2017.


AlixPartners looked at 33 publicly traded companies as part of their study, and found that the amount of debt those companies carry compared with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, which is known as leverage, climbed over the year end in June – often a precursor to restructuring or bankruptcy.

Hercules Offshore Finished with Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

In September of this year, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware approved Hercules Offshore’s restructuring plan, which proposed to give control of the company to its bondholders in exchange for debt forgiveness. Under the plan, the bondholders swap out $1.2 Billion in debt for control of the company. The bondholders pledged a $450 million dollar loan to fund the company’s exit, which would fast-track its exit out of Chapter 11. With a signed deal with the bondholders, along with its 900 million in revenue, and roughly 80 million in cash on hand, Hercules Offshore believed it was in a good position to overcome the industry’s downturn due to record low oil prices. At the time of the approved restructuring plan, the company stated it hoped to be out of bankruptcy by November.


True to its word, during the first week of November, the company confirmed it has completed its financial restructuring and has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.