Born in what was originally a small shop to repair fishing boats, the UT-Design offshore service vessel is still enjoying unparalleled success; orders for the originally Norwegian design continued to stream in as 2003 drew to a close. Since the design, first developed by Ulstein Trading (now part of Rolls-Royce Marine), hit the markets in 1975, about 450 further vessels have been delivered or are on order at shipyards all over the world.
UT-Design comprises of many different types of vessels, but the 700 series in the offshore vessel sector is by far the stand-out that helped the UT design concept make its mark on the global market.
When the North Sea started to make its first big advances in oil and gas exploration in the 1960s, supply vessels from America, originally used in the US Gulf of Mexico, arrived to carry out the work. These boats, however, weren't suitable for the harsh conditions of the North Sea. Recognizing the need for larger, sturdier boats, Ulstein started work on developing vessels that were more capable of handling rougher environments.
The first UT 704 was developed in 1974 and delivered to shipowner Stad Seaforth Shipping AS in Ålesund, Norway. Now renamed as Farstad Shipping ASA, the first-ever UT-Design customer remains one of the largest clients.
Talking about UT-Design vessels, Karl-Johan Bakken, Deputy Managing Director and Marketing Manager of Farstad Shipping ASA said, "A UT vessel is a good investment. UT-Design is a strong global brand. That's reassuring for us as a shipowner, since having a recognized vessel type makes it easier to charter out the fleet. UT-Design vessels also command higher second-hand value."
The main feature that differentiated the new UT-Design vessel from earlier models was the shaping of the hull. It had a higher freeboard and greater capacity, which in turn also made it a safer place to work.
Today, UT-Design vessels are being built all over the world - including Norway, China and Brazil. They have been delivered to customers in 26 different countries and hold a 30 % market share in the worldwide fleet of offshore service and supply vessel market. Among the larger supply vessel group of 2,000 dwt or more and 10,000 BOP or more, they hold a market share of around 45 %.
Demand for upgrading and updating of vessels in the offshore market today is healthy as oil and gas activity in regions such as West Africa, South America and Southeast Asia rapidly develop. This increased activity in new regions has led to the need for vessels that can be tailored to the specific needs of these areas.
As market requirements change, generic UT-designs are introduced. These models are then customized to meet the exact requirements of the contractor, thus making the design concept highly successful and popular. To date, 43 different basic models have been developed and introduced to the market.