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Offshore Heavy Transport: The three lives of a shipowner

Oslo: The story of Offshore Heavy Transport (OHT), the Norwegian project shipper, is a classic shipping tale and forms the basis for Friday’s regular shipowner profile here on Maritime CEO.

Dagfinn Thorsen, managing director of OHT, is naturally cautious when the media comes knocking on his door, a result perhaps because of the tumultuous history of his company.

Thorsen admits OHT’s lifespan is a “long story, not without complications”.

Thorsen started out with Dyyi Heavy Lift in 1981, before moving to Neptun Heavy Lift seven years later for a brief stint ahead of joining SeaTeam Heavy Lift in 1989. In the mid-1990s he had a year with Dockwise before starting OHT in 1997.

Thorsen designed and built a couple of ships for his new company before Dockwise came along in a controversial takeover move in 2001.

OHT, however, was not over as a brand. In 2004 Thorsen joined with Arne Blystad and Gunnar Hvammen to reform the name.

“The intention was to design and build new vessels – semi-submersible heavylift vessels,” recounts Thorsen, “but we were unable to find suitable yard slots. Yards were fully booked at that time, for a long time.”

An ambitious conversion of a Blystad suezmax was the novel solution Thorsen came up with.

Another tanker was also bought and conversion work took place in China, completing in 2008.

OHT also got the commercial management of two converted aframax tankers from Awilco Heavy Lift, and these vessels were bought by OHT in 2008 as well.

Then the story entered its final, arguably most controversial phase with Grand China Logistics, part of the HNA Group, buying out a majority stake in the firm for $380m in 2010.

Grand China’s woes are well documented and it has had to shed plenty of assets since then including last year OHT, which came, full circle, back to Norway.

A Blystad controlled company bought the four OHT vessels from Credit Agricole when the Chinese controlled company did not succeed in refinancing the fleet.

OHT still has four ships, with none on order. Its main geographic areas of business at the moment are in Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf.

Thorsen admits to Maritime CEO that he is concerned with the increasing competition in his niche sector, “especially,” he says, “since the new operators are pushing prices down.”

However, given Thorsen and Blystad’s past history in dealing during downturns expect OHT to make the most of opportunities as they present themselves in the market.  (01/03/13)


NEED TO KNOW:  Offshore Heavy Transport

Norways’s OHT is an oil service company operating vessels suitable for dry transportation of offshore drilling rigs and offshore modules. The company is the second largest heavy lift vessel operator in the world and presently operates four semi-submersible heavy lift vessels. Its history stretched back to 1997.

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