April 19 - A flood of investment in the Brazilian energy sector has German heavylift carrier, Combi-Lift, eyeing long-term charter contracts for up to two of its Combi Dock I, II, III and IV, semi-submersible heavily vessels, writes Rainbow Nelson.

State-controlled energy giant Petrobras plans to invest as much as USD114 billion in the exploration of the pre-salt oil fields, located up to 340 km off the coast of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Lured by the prospect of building up to 45 oil platforms, drill ships and rigs for Petrobras and another 48 rigs for ambitious private company OGX, Brazilian shipyards are busier than ever, leaving Combi-Lift optimistic about future employment of its largest vessels in Latin America's largest economy.

"If the Brazilian government gives the greenlight to the pre-salt oil field exploration we hope to have one or two ships on period contracts for this country," said Christoph Beeken, managing director of Combi-Lift's representative in Brazil, Brasil Chartering & Shipping.

"One of these ships is operating in the Gulf of Mexico. It is just a matter of time before Petrobras says we also want one," he said. "These ships are perfect for the offshore sector," says Beeken.

Rig and drillship construction is entering an unprecedented phase in the country's development with a raft of lucrative contracts due to be awarded this year. 

Up to six engineering consortia are competing for the construction of nine drillships. The winner of a contract to build seven in one yard will determine the location of a new shipyard and raise the prospect of large modules moving between existing and new shipyard facilities.

Yards in Suape in the north-east of the country, Angra do Reis in the state of Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul are already building production platforms for Petrobras.

The order boom is attracting up to USD7 billion of further shipyard investment along Brazil's coastline.

Combi-Lift operates one of its Combi-dock vessels in the Gulf of Mexico on a long-term charter for state-owned oil company Pemex. It was heavily specified, including the addition of a helipad for the Mexican group.

The flexibility of the Combi Dock ships, says Peter Poulsen, CombiLift sales and marketing manager makes them very attractive for the energy industry. Delivered between January 2008 and January 2010, the ships have two cranes with a capacity of 350 tonnes each and a third with a 200 tonnes lift capacity and were built to accommodate a broad variety of loading systems.

"They have three different loading configurations, lift-on/lift-off, semi-submersible and ro-ro."