Logo Partnership
September 2018


A new state of mind


A new state of mind


According to Winston Churchill, "The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." 
BOURBON, with its rich history of successes based on measured risk taking and challenging established ideas, is clearly to be included in this category. We are optimists because there are two ways of facing a crisis as violent as the one the oil industry has weathered over the past 4 years. The first consists in turning inward to wait for brighter days, relying on the same old recipes. The second, on the other hand, favors action, ambition, and the search for innovative solutions. 

The transformation undertaken by BOURBON during the past months, supported by the #BOURBONINMOTION strategic action plan, goes far beyond mere optimism. It requires a real change of state of mind and aims to give the group control of its own destiny through a change of paradigm, an evolution of its business model, and by recasting its service offer for the benefit of our clients. Moreover, our transformation is primarily based on trust, that of our teams and our customers, partners & shareholders, that gives meaning to what we are building.

Each of the recently created stand-alone companies bears the stamp of this new state of mind: integrated logistics services for Bourbon Marine & Logistics, turnkey projects for Bourbon Subsea Services, the improvement of the passenger experience via new digital services for Bourbon Mobility...

To experience such a change is one thing, to embody it, to be an actor rather than a spectator, is much more enriching and exciting. This is precisely the ambition of the men and women at BOURBON: to look together in the same direction to meet the challenges facing the offshore services of the future, with will and self-abnegation!


Gaël Bodénès




"Innovation: a challenge!" according to Clarksons Platou

After 4 years marked by an unprecedented crisis for the Oil & Gas industry, 2018 is proving to be a pivotal year for providers of marine services as well as for their clients. Can we talk about a recovery yet? What are the major trends of the market? Digitization, autonomous vessels, return of stacked vessels to operations... Christian Brugård, Head of Offshore from Clarksons Platou, a global leader of maritime brokerage and investment banking, shares his view of the market with us.


PartnerShip: After the crisis, the Oil & Gas market has recovered for the major Oil & Gas groups. What were the signs of this?

Christian Brugård
: Everything is linked to the price per barrel, which fell in late 2014. When it reached 30 dollars in 2016, the major Oil & Gas companies reached the low point of the market. Since then, the large companies are doing better, but they’re still pushing aggressively for cost reductions and reduced rates. Today we see a strong recovery, but how much are the major groups ready to invest in projects? In 2017, 11 large projects Float Production Unit projects were launched globally. This was a turning point for the market. In 2018, between 12 and 15 projects are expected, and even if this is extremely difficult to predict, we expect between 16 and 19 major projects in 2020. In addition to this several other smaller and larger non-floating production projects have been sanctioned, and will be sanctioned in the same period according to our analysis. 

PS: What about service providers like BOURBON?

C. B.: For those companies, the low point was reached last year; since then, the market has been making progress, particularly for the drilling sector. 2018 is a pivotal year for service providers who are beginning to be active again. Today, 60% of the service vessel fleet is operational, i.e.. 5% more than at the beginning of the year, which is a rather good sign. Furthermore, some new strategies have come about, but without major innovations: costs have been systematically brought downward, but with more effective, more reliable, more automated solutions. This is excellent for principals! Likewise, we observe that subcontractors are teaming up in order to offer integrated solutions. Recently, we saw companies making joint offers in developing Oil & Gas fields. In every way, innovation is a greater challenge for the players on this market than ever.

Innovation is a greater challenge for the players on this market than ever.
Christian BrugårdHEAD OF OFFSHORE FROM Clarksons Platou

PS: But there are still many stacked vessels...

C. B.: Currently, the offshore support vessel activity has resumed: between January and July 2018, utilization for the active fleet has bottomed and started to climb again. That's a good indicator of the market recovery. However, out of the 4,600 OSV in the worldwide fleet 1,200 are still stacked, including 600 that are over 15 years old: with the recovery, it will be necessary to reinvest in those vessels, but will it really be worthwhile for the oldest of them? That will depend on the vessel type, how they were maintained, but 15 years is generally a limit not to be exceeded. BOURBON, like the other service providers, will have to face this challenge, but with limited cash on hand. That's a real challenge.


PS: During this time of crisis, digitization is at the heart of technical evolutions. How do you analyze this strategic change?

C. B.: Digitization is a major issue. It is based on 3 main focuses: sharing, collecting, and analyzing information and connecting equipment and people. It is already in place for the most part, but it is starting to develop and be more generalized. In Oil & Gas, improving the quality of analyses will make it possible to optimize platform operations and vessels, reduce the financial and operational risks with a more analytical approach and possibly to reduce OPEX. BOURBON has also been one of the pioneers in this area. The first step of digitization will probably result in a better risk analysis of offshore investments and operations: for example, a better understanding of exploration and production costs. More and more staff will be transferred to shore, fewer on-board work hours will be necessary, which will reduce OPEX. However, new CAPEX investments will be required, either to outfit new vessels or conducting retrofitting of existing equipment. 

Digitization is a major issue. It is based on 3 main focuses: sharing, collecting, and analyzing information and connecting equipment and people.

PS: One last word on autonomous vessels?

C. B.: They are obviously coming to the market, that seems unavoidable to me. Within five or ten years, there will be the first autonomous conventional vessels. It will probably be longer in Oil & Gas due to more complex operational patters. But I could be wrong, it can of course move much quicker in Oil & Gas as well. In my opinion, the first step consists of connecting vessels in order to reduce crew size, which is happening with BOURBON. As for the drilling industry, a portion of monitoring already takes place on shore. 

Expert insight

A maritime revolution called RCM

Of BOURBON’s pillars of operational excellence, maintenance plays a central role in the organization of the group. However, it must gain in efficiency to better respond to the constraints of the current market and generate more client satisfaction through a perfectly controlled process, in particular via the Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM). Anne-Laure Comte, Head of Maintenance, explains.


The technical availability of vessels is one of the major challenges facing BOURBON: today it has reached 97%. To maintain and even improve this result, a team of around 30 people based in Bucharest dedicated to maintenance whose objective is to rationalize preventive maintenance, develop a common vision, and carry out projects inspired by industrial maintenance with the indispensable contribution of all the players involved in maintenance. The objective: to increase efficiency by anticipating possible breakdowns rather than incurring them, and thus improve our operational excellence for the benefit of our clients. 

This gain in efficiency will also entail a recast of the maintenance program, which today weighs too heavily on the economic performance of the vessel.
"It is essential to think of maintenance as being at the service of operations", says Anne-Laure Comte. "The aeronautic industry has shown us the way by developing maintenance based on reliability. Today, we are closer to this logic, which is known as Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)".

This means studying very precisely the functions that a piece of equipment must fulfil, its criticality, and assessing the best solution in terms of maintenance. "Take the specific example of ball bearings: systematic change according to the number of hours of use is not necessarily appropriate. On the other hand, a vibration analysis will rapidly identify a change of condition and enable us to remedy it." The deployment of RCM has gathered importance over many years in industries as demanding as aeronautics and nuclear energy and has thus demonstrated gains not only in terms of reliability, but also for the reduction of maintenance costs.

The deployment of RCM has thus demonstrated gains not only in terms of reliability, but also for the reduction of maintenance costs

A partnership is currently underway with an expert in this type of analysis, SKF, to acquire this skill in-house in order to generalize its use by officers aboard vessels. Profound changes to modify the management strategy for maintenance drydocks are being implemented. Thus, all stakeholders – shipmanagers, purchasing, and operations – are being called upon to act together and wage war on waste.

Finally, the development of big data collection will enable us to perform large-scale analyses and to gain perfect knowledge of the operations in order to optimally meet our clients' needs and strengthen operational excellence. A pilot program is in fact underway: two vessels are currently connected via their VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) and two more will follow by the end of 2018. "This enables us to ensure that the vessel is operated in an optimal manner, for example for engine power, and to know how precisely. Maintenance is then performed according to the use of equipment and not according to a fixed calendar interval. This project opens up challenging opportunities for us, with the promise of improvements at all levels".

This project opens up challenging opportunities for us, with the promise of improvements at all levels

These transformations will only be possible if they are accompanied by a change of implication and mentality, thanks to the Culture and Governance component of this new strategy, which introduces a new way of carrying out maintenance, for example by implementing a planning process jointly managed on board and ashore, the keyword of which will be: anticipation! The project also includes the full revision of the directives, procedures, and instructions for greater clarity and better sharing of best practices. The maintenance of the vessel will be rationally optimized to meet operational realities and will set an essential standard for modeling maintenance activities. 

Aware of the difficulty of this profound change, the project team is working in liaison with each shipmanager: each vessel will be supervised by the presence of two Change Officers, who will be present on board for over 8 weeks to ensure better compliance with the new practices by the crew. 
The project will ensure increased control and visibility for the client!

Their stories

Bourbon Mobility: a shift in strategy to strengthen its leadership

With its fleet of 269 Crew boats, BOURBON transports three million passengers per year, i.e. about 10,000 passengers per day, the equivalent of 22 Boeing, 747s daily! Since the launch of the #BOURBONINMOTION strategic action plan last February, the group has reorganized into 3 stand-alone companies, including one dedicated to the activity of personnel transport, Bourbon Mobility, which has undertaken a profound transformation of the way it apprehends this type of service.


 "For several months now, we have decided to operate a strategic shift inspired by the logic of airline companies: in fact, these two activities have very similar business models," explains François Leslé, CEO of Bourbon Mobility. Thus, the company aims for the same standards in terms of services, comfort and safety, by capitalizing firstly of all on its key strengths: operational excellence and technical reliability of its vessels. Because one can only succeed by building on solid foundations. 

All employees, at all levels of the company, are leading this new approach: "it is one of the key elements of this new direction" continues François Leslé. "There must be a real team spirit within Bourbon Mobility! Everyone must work together to achieve the same goal, in collaborative mode. All initiatives must be valued and we encourage feedback of information from the field to exploit positive potential ideas”.

All initiatives must be valued and we encourage feedback of information from the field to exploit positive potential ideas

The service offer has been redefined according to 3 major lines to make it clearer:

  • a "Crewliner" service for long-distance transport, 
  • an "Inter-field" service for the transport of personnel between oil fields, 
  • and a made-to-measure "Specific Support" service. 

With an average base/platform journey of four to five hours and even up to 12 hours, the comfort of our passengers remains a priority. "Our vessels, which are serviced in our Surfers Repair Centers, have a record technical availability rate, but we must now change paradigms and search for a 100% service rate," adds François Leslé. "This strategy represents a fundamental change: the vessel becomes a means and the passenger is placed at the center of this logic."

The vessel becomes a means and the passenger is placed at the center of this logic

Initiatives are also being taken to make the passenger experience more pleasant. A WiFi network will thus be available on all vessels, with a supply of films and media modelled on the standards of airlines and which passengers will be able to consult on their personal mobile devices. This service is currently being tested in Nigeria and Gabon and will, if results are conclusive, be deployed on vessels before the end of the year for clients who request it. Similarly, a snack service will be available from mid-2019 to respond to a real demand expressed by clients.

Going beyond the vessels themselves, BOURBON is planning to diversify its services. Reflection is in progress as to an UBER-type solution based on digitization for inter-field services, which would enable us to know the number of seats available in real time, book according to needs, and allow the client to pay according to the use of the vessels. This service should be finalized within two years. "The group is also preparing door-to-door offers for personnel in order to become what we could call an offshore travel agency, by taking charge of the persons concerned from their homes to the platform," says François Leslé.

Another symbol of the transformation of Bourbon Mobility is the fact that the company is working on an business model based on a rate per seat to encourage clients to optimize the occupancy rate and to pool means in order to continue to reduce their operating costs. In short, BOURBON proposes a real transformation of existing models.


3 questions for François Leslé, CEO OF Bourbon mobility

The embarkation/disembarkation solution called "Boat Landing" is one of BOURBON's great achievements in the field of safety. With what results? 

BOURBON invented Boat Landing thirty years ago. No deaths have ever occurred with this service: it is still the most reliable system ever devised for the transfer of passengers on the open sea. Transfer between the vessel and the platform is extremely dangerous. There is no alternative solution currently available on the market that can compete with Boat Landing in terms of safety and duration. We can disembark 50 people in 10 minutes! 

People who discover this service may feel a certain amount of stress. How do you help them overcome it?

We are currently developing a 3D glasses project with a Major. The aim is to prepare newcomers for disembarking with the Boat Landing procedure. Once they have gone through the procedure virtually, they will better manage their stress and know what to expect. In addition, we have equipped all personnel who have never disembarked this way with green armbands so that the seamen can recognize them and provide specific assistance. 

Do you think you can still improve your equipment and reduce the time required for transfer?

Yes. The duration of transfer at sea is not a mere detail. New equipment is being studied to better respond to local constraints and to expand our zone of coverage. Even though Boat Landing is perfectly well adapted to West Africa, it is perhaps less so under the conditions that we encounter elsewhere, for example, where the needs related to the sea and the weather are different. We are therefore considering other technical solutions, such as the use of motion compensated gangways, to ensure an optimum quality of service with total safety.


Successful together

Connected vessels: the smart fleet


The Bourbon Liberty 150 PSV, an extension of the Bourbon Liberty 100, offers clients complementary services, including a larger deck of up to 400 m² and a storage capacity 30% greater than traditional vessels.


The Bourbon Liberty 200 AHTS stands out for its powerful engines and winches, exceptional maneuverability, optimized fuel consumption, fire-fighting and anti-pollution equipment.


An evolution of the Liberty 200, the AHTSs of the Bourbon Liberty 300 series offer clients a larger deck area as well as greater storage capacity and offer the same key features as the Bourbon Liberty 200s.


The 20 vessels of the Bourbon Explorer 500 series were designed to supply modern drilling installations and offer a large liquid mud loading capacity of 1,500 m3.


The series of Bourbon PX105 vessels offers a cargo deck area of over 1000 m², 4,250 t of deadweight, a Class 2 Dynamic Positioning system (DP 2) and diesel-electric propulsion.

In pictures

BOURBON in India: a long-term presence

Some 10 years ago, BOURBON performed its first surface operations in India for the oil company Reliance Industries. With the launch of its first Subsea fields, Bourbon Subsea Services naturally proposed its services and concluded its first contracts in 2015, 2016 & 2017. This success promises to be a lasting one, as a new contract has just been concluded, with McDermott for construction work on Reliance Industries’ forthcoming project, which will involve MPSV Southern Ocean.


India, the world’s fifth economic power, driven by a booming economy, is also experiencing unparalleled expansion of its oil and gas activity, in particular in the marine and subsea offshore sector. “BOURBON initially secured a position on the spot market” explains Jean-Charles Audouin, Area Commercial Manager. “This was substantiated, in a rather short space of time, through 2 contracts with Subsea 7, followed by McDermott, for the Indian national company ONGC”.
On the agenda, a repair mission on the S2AB field, then construction support work on the S1 Vashista field, with the same vessel, Bourbon Evolution 807, equipped with HD ROVs commissioned by Bourbon Offshore DNT.

BOURBON then pursued its development on the Indian market for Reliance Industries, by concluding a long-term inspection-maintenance contract for Bourbon Hélène on the KGD6 field, end 2017, followed by a second contract for the Southern Ocean for construction support on the KGD6-Rseries field. 

Bourbon Hélène is carrying out a production, inspection and cleaning support mission for subsea facilities. This namely includes conducting visual inspections with the ROVs, implementing corrosion inspection measures and cleaning concretions deposited on oil structures. As regards the Southern Ocean, it will undertake survey and support work for the construction of a KGD6-Rseries field subsea production system.

This new milestone is important as it illustrates that we’ve earned the trust of our customers in this region through our experience and our service quality, and we’ve adapted to local regulations (local content, regulatory requirements and specific tax regimes)” states Jean-Charles Audouin. “We’ve been working with the Indian crews for a long time now, and that’s a great advantage. These sailors are highly proficient, experienced and work readily with BOURBON standards. Moreover, we can propose a fleet of modern SPS-qualified vessels, a real imperative on the Indian offshore market. What could be seen as a market entry obstacle is actually, right now, for us, a differentiating factor!” 


We’ve earned the trust of our customers in this region through our experience and our service quality
Jean-Charles AudouinArea Commercial Manager

The group also benefits from its international footprint. With part of its fleet rolled out in Singapore and another in the Persian Gulf, BOURBON can serve India from the West as well as from the East and has, as such, a geographical asset for the Indian market, which is seasonal and monsoon-based.


A new scope of prospection

Although Bourbon Subsea Services is developing its turnkey project solution offering as part of its #BOURBONINMOTION strategic action, the offshore bottom-fixed wind power segment, which is on the rise in India (5 GW projected by 2021, double that of France), offers the group a new scope of prospection on which it could take a stance in the coming months.


Regards croisés

Subsea turnkey projects