In announcing a return to profitability in 2017, Royal Boskalis Westminster (Boskalis) also revealed that it will transition all of its brands to the Boskalis brand name during this year.

That would mean the end of the line for the Dockwise brand, the largest operator in the heavy lift shipping market, which it acquired in 2013.

Reporting a return to the black in 2017, Boskalis achieved a net profit of EUR150 million (USD185 million), compared to a net loss of EUR564 million (USD695 million) in 2016, which was the result of EUR840 million (USD1.036 billion) of non-cash impairment charges.

Turnover declined by 10 percent to EUR2.34 billion (USD2.88 billion) (2016: EUR2.60 billion USD3.2 billion), or 15 percent when adjusted for consolidation, deconsolidation and currency effects.

Revenue within its offshore energy business, in which Dockwise sits, declined further compared to previous years, due in part to the poor market conditions in the oil and gas industry, as did the result with the company's towage and salvage business.

The company said the market picture for the next two years will be characterised by continued lower volumes of work and pressure on both utilisation levels and margins.

In the offshore energy market, conditions have not changed and Boskalis reports that previous contracts within the heavy marine transport are being completed and it is increasingly dependent on the highly competitive spot market.

It says where necessary transport vessels at the lower end of the market will be laid up.

Within its offshore installation and intervention, Boskalis' order book is fuller and it says it expects a reasonable year.

The company added that its position in the offshore installation market was recently strengthened with the commissioning of the Bokalift 1, which was previously the semi-submersible heavy transport vessel Finesse, that underwent conversion into a 3,000-tonne capacity crane vessel that can transport and install foundations for offshore wind farms and oil and gas platforms, as well dismantle old platforms and salvage ship wrecks.

The conversion of the former Finesse type II heavy transport vessel into the Bokalift 1 crane vessel was largely completed in 2017. The outfitting of DP2 and additional accommodation was completed in Singapore and the rotating mast crane was installed in China.

Peter Berdowski, ceo, said: "Despite the difficult market conditions we ended the year quite reasonably, in line with our expectations.

"In the past period we also adjusted our fleet and organisation to the changed market conditions. Following the fleet rationalisation programme, we optimised the organisation at head office in 2017. We made a conscious decision to do this within a short timeframe allowing us to now look ahead at the opportunities still present in the market."

Berdowski said that Boskalis does not yet foresee a fundamental recovery in its markets in the coming years, although in the short term, it does expect opportunities for selective growth and a subsequent structural recovery for the period thereafter.

Concluding, Boskalis says that the long-term macro trends that underpin the Boskalis business model remain positive. Its business drivers are structural economic growth and increasing prosperity of the global population, which in turn fuel growth in global trade and demand for raw materials and energy.

However, while the long-term trends are positive, in the short term these are not translating into promising projects across the board.

Demand in some of the regions and markets where Boskalis is active is expected to develop less favourably in the coming years and the outlook is uncertain.

Boskalis says it will continue to focus on market segments that show long-term structural growth and provide short-term opportunities: ports, energy (oil, gas, wind and the dismantling of old offshore platforms) and climate change-related projects (coastal defense and riverbank protection).

The company says that the project-based nature of a significant part of our activities, in addition to the uncertain market conditions, makes it difficult to provide a specific quantitative forecast with regard to the 2018 full-year result this early on in the year. But it does say that it will be a challenge to match the 2017 net result.