China Merchant Heavy Industries (CMHI) has launched a new semi-submersible drilling rig for a potential charter with China Oilfield Service Ltd (COSL).

The launch comes against the backdrop of the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19), which as of Thursday has led to 2791 deaths.

CMHI recalled 300 workers who had initially stayed at home to avoid contracting the virus back to its yard in eastern China’s Jiangsu province to add the final touches to the rig in order to meet a launch deadline of late February.

The Gusto MSC CM-SD1000 unit, which has a mooring system rather than dynamic positioning system, is equipped to drill in shallow- to medium-water depths. The drilling system is provided by Dutch company Huisman.

Newbuild launch: of semisub at CMHI in China Photo: CMHI

Drilling sources said there is a chance the new CM-SD1000 unit will be used by COSL to replace one of its existing ageing semisubs — possibly the Nanhai 5.

Nanhai 5, which has already reached retirement age, is understood to have already been sold to CMHI but is currently being chartered by COSL on a three-year contract for operations in the South China Sea that started 2018.

The rig delivered in 1984 and originally designed to have an operating life of 33 years, and was overhauled at CMHI's yard in Shenzhen early in 2018.

COSL’s latest newbuild is the deep-water semisub Hai Yang Shi You 982, which was delivered by Chinese yard Dalian Shipbuilding Heavy Industry Offshore in early 2018.