Ship-to-Ship Operations: what motivated the growth of this modality?

  • 12/05/2020
  • 10 minutes

If you have been keeping up with news in the maritime transport universe, you must have found more often information about ship-to-ship operations. This is not just an impression.

The modality is becoming more common in Brazil, with a significant increase in the volume of executions, impacting the logistics of the O&G ( Oil & Gas) market.

Do you want to better understand what this operation is and why companies are betting on it? With the participation of Thiago Ribeiro, Fendercare’s regional Ship-to-Ship manager, we will talk a lot about the subject. Check it out.

What are ship-to-ship operations?

A ship-to-ship operation is nothing more than the transfer of cargoes of oil and oil products from one ship directly to another, without going through any structure on land.

The process is becoming more common in Brazil with the advancement of technologies that facilitate it and new safe procedures that mitigate risks and make it more viable.

There are two most common ways to perform ship-to-ship:

  • with moored ships, also known as double banking;
  • with moving ships and offshore, called underway.

How has this type of operation been growing?

Ship-to-ship has been expanding due to a need in our country, above that supported by our current port structure.

“The growth comes from the increase in oil production in the country, which currently exceeds our refining capacity. This opens doors for the export of crude oil and for consumer markets, especially in Asia and Europe, whether by moored or underway ship-to-ship”, says Thiago Ribeiro.

According to him, the offshore modality of this procedure is the one that grows more precisely because of this deficiency — in addition, of course, to the development of safer techniques and technologies for the practice.

In fact, security is a major focus in this expansion. A demonstration of this is that the Navy itself recently carried out the regulation of ship-to-ship operations, in addition to an agreement between ANTAQ and ANP for technical cooperation in its development.

This is a consequence of the risks associated with this type of procedure when performed without strict safety concerns. After all, the leakage of O&G cargo represents an immediate damage to the environment, in addition to the costs necessary to contain its impact.

These risks can lie in the mooring between ships, during cargo handling and in many other detailed and delicate steps. Therefore, the use of trained service providers is essential.

What favored the growth of this operation?

It was no accident that ship-to-ship began to expand recently in Brazilian maritime logistics. See some factors that contributed to this growth.

Brazilian productive expansion

As we have already said, the increase in the export volume of oil and oil products has a great influence on this growth. Companies across the logistics and transportation chain need to look for alternatives to accommodate the current supply and demand.

Logistic capacity

The increase in production was exactly what created a bottleneck in the Brazilian port infrastructure. Petrobras itself has private ports where it carries out this type of operation, but only a few private ports are prepared for the transfer.

Therefore, the underway modality becomes more attractive because it is offshore, not to mention the possibility of optimizing routes for these ships to travel for shorter distances, as they do not need to go to the port to receive the cargo.

Technical training

Since safety is a priority in ship-to-ship, this growth is only possible with the training and specialization of professionals in such a specific procedure.

Companies have been investing in the preparation of both operators and operation managers who plan and execute each one with rigor, parameterization and close monitoring of risks.

Operation of specialized companies

Not only are professionals getting better prepared, but so are companies. The growth of businesses focused on the ship-to-ship operation reflects the greater search for it.

Thiago is an example of this: “Fendercare, in Brazil, has been focused on developing and improving offshore ship-to-ship operations for four years”. This specialization creates greater expertise and more market dynamism, increasing efficiency and the ability to execute such a technical procedure.

More security

And we must remember: if safety is a big factor in ship-to-ship, the development of tools, stages and specialized professionals considerably reduces the risks involved in the operation.

Less risk always means less cost, increased supply, reduced insurance, efficiency and speed of procedures.

What is the future of ship-to-ship in Brazil?

All ship-to-ship growth factors are only in their early stages of development. When we look to the future, we see better technologies, a production that keeps growing and the world’s eyes more attentive to the Brazilian market.

In other words, the perspective is that more and more opportunities will appear. Thiago summarizes well how all these elements only tend to improve over time: “There is also the prospect of greater professionalization. Today, the companies that are here are all very solid and specialized in this type of operation, as the regulatory and technical requirements are high. Therefore, although resources from outside Brazil are still used in operations, we are developing professionals through training and creating a good experience in this regard”.

He also points out how the operation is still in its infancy in Brazil and that, therefore, the opportunities are there to be taken advantage of: “Our company does almost 3,000 annual operations in the world: Brazil’s contribution is a small, but important, portion. The subject is new here, but the standards are very high. The market is maturing and will grow”.

And there is no doubt about that. With the development of techniques and people, the increasing participation of specialized companies and the increase in the production of oil and oil products in the country, our future is bright.

After all, development brings development. With the advancement of the modality, we can expect more ships, more advanced logistics and even a search for Brazilian ports to adapt their infrastructure for double banking operations.

We can say that ship-to-ship is a sign of new times and a modality to keep an eye on. If there is something we can predict in the future, it is that it will have a lot of influence on how the industry will prepare itself going forward.

Do you want to be even more familiar with the maritime transport of oil and oil products? Then, see this article on O&G (Oil & Gas) transport logistics!