Cruise control

With an emphasis firmly on delivering superior vessels on time, Simek is a Norwegian shipyard that serves the offshore market in the North Sea by building mainly platform supply and anchor handling vessels.

And while the overriding focus over the past 12 months has been on the offshore market, the yard has also worked on advanced fishing vessels, where the main market is the UK, as well as ice breakers, tugs and ferries.

“We try to maintain diversity but when the market is good you tend to stick to the place where the activity is,” explains Øyvind Iversen, Simek’s managing director. “Traditionally we have worked in the North Sea but we try to look further afield.”

Regardless of the vessel, Øyvind says that meeting high standards has always been a priority: “We deliver high class vessels and we’re always punctual with deliveries, despite being reliant on sub suppliers – it’s a key strength.”

He continues, shedding light on why achieving a high level of service and quality is all in a day’s work for Simek: “We’re small, with 250 employees, and deliver three to four vessels per year. The company leaders maintain close relationships with the yard and its primary workforce. We’re not one of those huge companies where a staff member is a number only – everyone receives attention for their work.”

Examples of recent shipbuilding contracts include an agreement, worth in excess of 300 million NOK, with Havila for a new platform supply vessel (PSV), as Øyvind reveals: “It’s a Havila 832 design, which uses the same design for two vessels we delivered for Simon Mokster in Stavanger, Norway. It’s a medium-sized platform vessel utilising a clean design with double skin, making it very modern and in line with expectations in the North Sea regarding new builds, in respect of oil pollution prevention. This boat will delivered at the end of August 2010.

“The Simon Møkster PSV vessels are more targeted towards the rescue services market,” says Øyvind. “Building these two ships is the first work we have secured with Simon Møkster, but we have been in contact with the company for many years. I hope we fulfil more of its contracts in the future, and the same can be said for any of our clients – we want to do more.”

In terms of delivering vessels, Simek takes great care in taking on projects, so as not to provide a service it deems below par. “We act cautiously and won’t sign a contract unless we believe we can deliver on time,” Øyvind comments. “We ensure the objective is in reach, within margins, and that we have enough time for completion. Logistics, as well as the capacity to plan and perform the necessary actions, are key for a yard. It’s imperative to have skilled personnel and a good production plan with regards to allocating the necessary resources. Any delay is a disaster, as it affects the next vessel.”

Outlining how Simek approaches vessel creation, Øyvind reveals that the shipbuilder constantly tries to improve the process of building, though its method remains the same – and it’s one which helps it to stand out. “All of our steelwork is produced in Poland at small yards and our production method is quite different from practically any other Norwegian yard,” he reports. “Instead of building a ship and floating it home, we divide a vessel into as many as seven units and bring each to the yard on our own barge. We can blast and paint here, before erecting the blocks into a vessel in our undercover heated facility. Having heat controlled production facilities is extremely important to high quality and a lasting paintjob; our premises lift us above many of our competitors, quality wise.”

Indeed, it is strengths such as this that have helped Simek sail through the financial crisis thus far. Explaining his views on the situation and how the shipyard is managing, Øyvind observes: “Those working at the yard haven’t felt the effect of the recession yet, however, there haven’t been many new build signings over the past year because the banks have been cautious and the market is in flux.

“In Norway, a handful of new build contracts have been signed in the last few months so the market will start moving again, without reaching the unhealthily high volumes we used to see. After all, the oil price is high whilst prices for commodities like steel and copper are increasing slowly; the world market is getting back on track.”

Continuing, Øyvind asserts that European shipyards will always be frontrunners, despite price wars: “Although it’s a more expensive continent, Europe will be ahead of India and Asia in terms of quality and punctuality. This will continue to be our selling point and I believe in a positive future for European yards.”

Appreciative of Simek’s endurance throughout shifting market conditions, Øyvind has no plans to overstretch the business. Instead, his vision for the shipyard is based on solidifying its current success and abilities. He concludes: “If markets in the North Sea remain active and want to progress, I’ll talk to other countries and companies about growth – but I’m more concerned with maintaining our present production level than I am with expansion. Our unwavering aim is to complete our current work properly and in an effective manner, to a high standard.”

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