Namdock’s stacking and preservation of the Valaris 109 rig: an active economic boost to the local economy, even while dormant

Strategically located on the west coast of Africa in Walvis Bay, Namibia, Namdock is a leader in the West African ship repair market and offshore oil and gas sector, which has gained global recognition for its extensive dry dock capacities and exceptional client service – even in the face of a global pandemic, which has seen numerous oil rigs being decommissioned and a sharp decline in repair and maintenance activities accordingly.

Currently very evident in the Walvis Bay harbour, is the 350 foot Valaris 109 shallow water jack-up rig from Angola, which Namdock is currently preparing for stacking. Stacking occurs when a drilling rig completes a job and is withdrawn from operation for a designated period of time.

Says Quintin Simon, Marketing Manager, Namdock: “Owing to the Covid 19 pandemic — and its associated travel restrictions and lockdowns — there is a current decrease in oil demand, which has resulted in the cancellation of many oil exploration and drilling projects. Oil rigs and drill ships however, are high-investment, high-tech vessels which are expensive to operate, whether they are actively drilling or not. For this reason, the Valaris 109 rig will be stacked and preserved until the global economy improves.”

As the name implies, the jack-up rig works on a jacking system, using its three main legs to lift the operational deck above the water and pinning her legs (or ‘spud cans’ as they are typically referred to) into the ground, providing stability  despite lateral forces when deployed into ocean-bed systems. “As a rule, jack-up rigs are not self-propelled and rely on tugs or heavy lift ships for transportation. Other rigs are built more like vessels and are moored with anchors, using dynamic positioning (DP), to automatically maintain the vessel’s position and heading by using its own propellers and thrusters,” Simon explains.

He adds very emphatically that the Valaris 109’s legs have unfortunately been misidentified as 5G towers, raising concerns within the local Walvis Bay community: “Namdock would like to assure the community that the company is in no way involved in 5G technology in any manner or form.”

When rigs or vessels are stacked, the degree of stacking normally depends on how ready and prepared the owner wants the rig to be when – or if – it needs to start drilling again. There are therefore two options available: cold-stacking or warm-stacking.

“Warm-stacking means that although the rig is deployable, it is not currently operational. While the daily costs may be reduced, they are essentially comparable to those in drilling mode, because a crew must be present to ensure the rig’s preservation and preventative maintenance schedules are followed, so that if a drilling contract becomes available, the rig can be mobilised at short notice,” Simon points out.

He adds that cold-stacking, on the other hand, is also sometimes called ‘mothballing’ because the rig is boarded up and completely inactive. Mothballed rigs are therefore shut down entirely and stored in a shipyard, harbour, or in an assigned offshore area. The crews are either reduced entirely, or else a skeleton crew might continue, greatly lowering the cost of maintenance.

Generally, before cold-stacking, Namdock therefore undertakes essential steps to protect the rig’s or vessel’s facilities and equipment, including applying protective coatings to combat corrosion, filling engines with protective fluids, and installing dehumidifiers; because, unlike warm-stacked rigs, cold-stacked rigs or vessels may be out of service for protracted periods of time. 

Simon explains: “Cold-stacking involves preservation of equipment on board to assure that the asset does not deteriorate beyond its current condition. In this particular case, the Valaris 109 rig will be cold-stacked to reduce costs. Prior to undergoing cold-stacking, all equipment on board will be tested and preserved by processes identified by the client. After completion, the crew will leave, and the vessel will be dormant until reactivated.”

Simon points out that during this time of economic hardship caused by the Covid 19 pandemic, the stacking process is “a silver lining in these uncertain times” as several employees (who have been on board for the past three months and have been checked and cleared by Walvis Bay port heath authorities) and local Namibian contractors, will be kept busy ensuring that the preservation process goes seamlessly.

He furthermore emphasises that the Valaris 109 is due to be reactivated in approximately 8 months’ time:

“Following her reactivation, there will be substantial work required. At that point, this will have a massively positive financial impact – both on Namdock and on the community as a whole.

This is the key reason we offer these preservation options to clients – so that – when the reactivation is required – we are close at hand, together with Namport, as the preferred service provider to undertake the task,” he concludes.