Norwegian players Shearwater GeoServices and SeaBird Exploration have picked up further awards on a rising tide of demand in the seismic market.

Shearwater will carry out a large 3D seismic survey covering an area of 8500 square kilometres off South America.

It will deploy acquisition vessel Amazon Warrior with 14 streamers for the survey that is due to kick off in the fourth quarter and has an estimated duration of six months.

However, details of the precise location of the survey were not disclosed by the company, a joint venture of Oslo-listed GC Rieber Shipping, Schlumberger and Rasmussen Group.

Meanwhile, SeaBird Exploration is set to deploy its seismic acquisition vessel Nordic Explorer on a 2D survey in the Australasia region under a fresh contract award.

The survey is due to start in the fourth quarter of this year and has an estimated duration of three to four months.

The Oslo-listed company also stated it is set to reverse about half of a $1.3 million loss provision on a 3D seismic survey off West Africa after the work was completed earlier than expected by the same vessel.

Market prospects are improving for the previously hard-hit seismic segment due to higher demand from oil companies keen to carry out exploration for discoveries to replace depleted reserves from existing fields.

This positive development has been underpinned by consolidation into three main players - Shearwater, PGS and Polarcus - with the acquisitions by Shearwater of the fleets of WesternGeco and CGG.

The supply side has also tightened with the global competitive fleet of 3D seismic vessels cut in half since the peak in 2012, with a current fleet of 28 active vessels of which 23, or more than 85%, are owned by the above trio, according to Clarksons Platou Securities.

While there is a “shadow supply” of 17 idle units, the firm believes more than 75% of these cold-stacked vessels older than 10 years are unlikely to return to the fleet as they lack the required streamer capacity and other equipment for oil companies, and owners are reluctant to upgrade them on speculation.

It estimates that six vessels less than 10 years of age could though re-enter the fleet, forecasting a competitive supply of 34 vessels by the end of 2021 that would be on a par with the global high-end supply in 2016.

The aggregate contract backlog for the seismic segment stood at $630 million at the end of the second quarter, up around 45% from the trough of the slump in late 2016, according to the firm.

The fact that backlog growth is outpacing sales growth of 19% is “a sign that there is momentum building up in the industry, which should support future performance”, the firm stated in its latest quarterly oil services report.

“Combined with significantly improved cost control and operational efficiencies, we argue seismic companies are doing well on a fundamental level,” it stated.

Analysts at Pareto Securities echoed this optimistic view, stating in a report that contract seismic revenue is up more than 70% from the first half of last year and that capacity booked for the seasonally slow winter months is at a six-year high, with increasing demand fuelling dayrates.