Dubai-headquartered offshore service provider Astro Offshore is gearing up for a new round of expansion, as the offshore sector gradually gets back on its track.
Both Mark Humphreys’s grandfather and father served at sea, meaning for the managing director of Astro Offshore shipping is very much inside his blood. He founded Astro Offshore in 2009 in Singapore, and over the years, the company has expanded its footprints to the Middle East, having moved its headquarters to Dubai and set up an office in Abu Dhabi last year.
During the major crisis in the offshore sector, Humphreys has managed to keep Astro Offshore as a debt free company.
“When you operate with no debt, you have much more flexibility in operations,” Humphreys says.
According to Humphreys, the company brought in a number of vessels at much cheaper prices when the market went down, and today the company doesn’t suffer much depreciation of the ship assets.
The company currently operates a fleet of six AHTs and 10 heavy lift barges, mostly of which are employed in the Middle East market.
Humphreys gives a positive view on the outlook of the offshore vessel market, especially in the Middle East. “Although the crisis in the offshore sector is not over, I still see a good amount of inquiries in the region,” Humphreys says.
Going forward, Humphreys says the company will continue to expand its fleet and look for longer term contracts, adding that the company would rather acquire vessels than charter them.
“But we are not going to gamble, as soon as we buy it, we will deploy it for projects,” Humphreys says. “We never make decisions speculatively, and we are not shy to invest in assets,” he adds.
Humphreys says the company is actively looking to expand its offering in the offshore heavy transport market, considering investing in newbuild heavylift barges to serve the increasing demand in the region.
In January, Astro Offshore formed a partnership with heavylift specialist Mammoet, to collaborate on offshore transport solutions for oil and gas construction projects in the Middle East.
Despite having a positive view on the market outlook, Humphreys reckons the high operating costs and tightening local regulations in some Middle East regions could create challenges for international owners, especially as he has seen an influx of OSVs from Southeast Asia into the Middle East market.