Professional operator

Privately owned organisation GC Rieber was founded in 1879 and over four generations has evolved, both through organic growth and acquisitions, to offer long-term active ownership in core business sectors. At present, this strategy is condensed into three main areas; Industry, Shipping, and Property, each of which is headed by a dedicated subsidiary. Having made its first foray into the shipping and marine environment sector in the 1930s, followed by oil and gas ventures in the 1970s, GC Rieber Shipping has operated as a dedicated shipping company since 1981. As of 1998, the company has been listed on the Oslo stock exchange with the majority of shares held by the GC Rieber parent organisation.

In its own right, GC Rieber Shipping consists of three defined business segments of subsea, seismic, and ice and harsh climate support. “Within the seismic space we have four ships, two of which are brand new high capacity 3D vessels delivered last year, which are currently under charter to Dolphin Geophysical. In addition we undertake third party ship management of third party vessels for seismic companies such as Fugro, and CGGVeritas,” outlines Finn Atle Hamre, director of markets and projects at GC Rieber Shipping.

This is the oldest part of the business with GC Rieber Shipping having owned and operated seismic vessels since the late 1960s, accumulating vast experience from a huge number of global operations. This was followed some years later in the early 1980s with a deeper move into offshore exploration and development through dynamically positioned subsea support vessels. Today GC Rieber Shipping owns and operates five subsea vessels for miscellaneous offshore contractors and oil companies.

The final side to the company is its specialisation in tonnage for ice management, scientific expeditions and logistics related to activities in the demanding regions of the Arctic and Antarctic. All three vessels operated by GC Rieber Shipping in these ice-prone markets have been designed in-house based upon its experience working in the environment and feedback from the crew. “We assist ExxonMobil with ice management on the Sakhalin I field in Russia, have a vessel contracted with the British Antarctic Survey for their operations in Antarctica, and a third charter with the UK Ministry of Defence for ice patrols,” notes Finn.

“We see that the experience that we have within harsh and deep-water areas, and the work we’ve done in the Arctic and Antarctic for ice operations over the years, is in demand as the oil and gas industry is moving, and will be forced to move, in that direction as the readily available resources become depleted. This is a trend that the general industry is foreseeing, and we believe that we are in a strong position as only a number of companies actually have the relevant experience,” he continues.

Although headquartered in Bergen, Norway, GC Rieber Shipping is working on a much wider basis with ships operating in Australia, Russia, Brazil, North Sea, West Africa, the Gulf of Mexico, and any other prime locations for the oil and gas, and offshore sectors. Across its three sectors the company currently operates 18 advanced special purpose vessels, of which 12 are owned by the group, including some through its various strategic value chain investments. This figure is however set to grow in the near future with GC Rieber Shipping having recently made its largest ever single investment into a new vessel, at a value of $130 million.

The vessel is due for delivery in February 2014 following a relatively short construction period of 19 months, but having chosen a quality yard in Norway for the project GC Rieber Shipping is confident that it will meet this scheduled date. With the new vessel the company is intending to target the high-end offshore construction market, and the major contractors operating within that sector.

Having this perspective as a vessel owner also benefits GC Rieber Shipping in its role as a third-party ship manager, which as Finn describes, in turn ties into the company’s strengths in presenting an integrated offering: “We pride ourselves on taking the same ownership in what we do for our ship management clients as we do for our own vessels. Our understanding of the delicacy of their operations, the costs involved, and the key drivers are just some of the reasons why these clients look to us for these services.

“On a wider level, we see that whilst almost anyone can purchase a ship what is more important is having the experience to prove to the market that you’re capable of carrying out these services. We are a fully integrated shipping company, which means that as well as having a strong fleet, we are focused on the soft factors of how to operate these to the market requirements, which are ever evolving, and understanding what the client needs,” he enthuses.

It is with this mindset that GC Rieber Shipping has laid out its straightforward vision for the future, which Finn sums up in a simple conclusion: “We want to be seen as a strong professional client-preferred operator in the market, and to remain a long-term player having been in the market longer than most other companies in this business. We intend to retain the values we hold today but with a focus always on the changing client requirements in order to be considered the partner of choice.”

Focused on three niche markets
Specialist in ice support
Investing in new vessel