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Fast4Ward EPC process gets under way for SBM

Dutch contractor confirms order for newbuild floater hull at SWS yard, with construction expected to begin within a year

SBM Offshore has begun the engineering, procurement and construction phase of its innovative Fast4Ward floater design concept after confirming an order for a newbuild hull at a Chinese yard.

The Dutch contractor is hoping to begin construction on the maiden unit at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding (SWS) late this year or early next year following the order, which was sealed in June and which confirmed earlier reports from Upstream on the impending order the Chinese builder.

SBM has remained mum on much of the details of the order, saying only that planned yard expenditure this year will be around $20 million, with about $55 million next year. 

Upstream has previously said the unit would have a storage capacity of 2 million barrels of oil.

SBM chief executive Bruno Chabas said the construction process would take about as long as would be expected for a regular very large crude carrier. 

An SBM spokesperson said delivery is expected "around 2019/2020," without being more specific.  

The unit has been ordered on speculation, but a spokesperson said the company is “cautiously optimistic for improvement in the market”.

Following the start of the EPC phase for a generic hull, the next phase is building a standard catalogue of modules for topsides to suit a range of field development sizes and concepts.

SBM’s Fast4Ward concept has been three years in the making and is ultimately aimed at making deep-water developments more cost effective by employing standardised designs and cutting down on delivery time by as much as one year.

“This concretely ushers in the era of standardised FPSOs with flexibility and marks a step change for future deep-water field developments,” Chabas said.

SBM also appears to be some way off reaching a deal with Brazilian authorities about a return to landing contracts in the country, following an earlier leniency deal. 

Although Chabas said “discussions are advancing” with the US Department of Justice over the company’s previous relationship with Unaoil, there was a noticeable difference in wording when it came to expressing the state of play in Brazil, with Chabas saying “discussions are continuing” with authorities there.

SBM made an underlying profit in the first six months of $78 million, up from $66 million a year earlier.

First-half revenues, however, fell from $939 million to $835 million as the turnkey segment suffered from a lack of orders.

The company now expects underlying directional earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to be “above $750 million”, as opposed to around that figure, as had previously been expressed.