Far beyond the Dutch borders, Wagenborg figuratively planted its flag in an entirely unexplored region on the Caspian Sea in 1997. In the course of almost 20 years, what started there as a pioneering project has grown to become Wagenborg Kazakhstan, a professional offshore company specialising in logistics projects and marine support, with some 250 employees and a varied fleet.
Specialist knowhow as a springboard in a niche market
In the 1990s, a consortium of seven oil companies, coordinated by Shell, investigated the possibility of extracting oil in the northern part of the Caspian Sea. In this area of approximately 300 kilometres by 300 kilometres, with a depth of only three metres of water, a one-metre-thick layer of ice can build up in the winter. For the drilling site, a pontoon was used with a draught of 1.80 metres. This had to be sunk onto a plateau created by sprayed up sand. Wagenborg was asked to advise on construction of the production platform, to develop a supply strategy, and to provide specifications for the necessary materials and ships.
The company’s knowhow regarding navigation in shallow water (with the Wadden Sea ferries) and in ice (with the merchant fleet), combined with logistics expertise in oil and gas extraction ultimately led to the assignment to manage the entire supply package, including two newly built supply ships. Wagenborg was the successful tenderer in an international field of thirty candidates. And that’s how Wagenborg Kazakhstan came into being
Arcticaborg and Antarcticaborg
The supply ships Arcticaborg and Antarcticaborg are classed as “shallow draft icebreaker supply vessels”. When moving ahead, they can break though sixty centimetres of ice and when moving astern through ninety centimetres. The fact that the icebreaking effect is better astern is due to the shape and weight of the stern in combination with the “Azipod system”. The diesel-electric propulsion system is ideally suited for operations in ice because unlike traditional propulsion machinery there is no direct and fragile coupling between the engine and the propeller. The stainless steel propellers are electrically powered and are able to pulverise blocks of ice.
Khazarborg, Kulanborg and Kaynarborg
The Kazakhstan project was then expanded. Moving the enormous work platform to other locations requires the use of tugs which not only have sufficient power but can also operate in shallow water. Here too, Wagenborg was able to draw on its knowhow and experience in this specific field and was also responsible for the actual towing work. That led to the construction of three tugs of approximately 25 metres long with a draught about 2 metres and each capable of generating some 17.5 tonnes of bollard pull. All of these vessels are also equipped with a crane so that they can also be deployed as service vessels.
All-round maritime support
Wagenborg now offers various logistics solutions in the Caspian Sea, as well as maritime support for the numerous oil companies and dredging operators.