MetalShips & Docks
As one of the most important offshore vessel construction and platform maintenance companies in the world, MetalShips & Docks, of Vigo, Spain, competes with Asia’s major players, Europe’s best-known shipbuilders and anyone else looking to take on mega contracts in the field. The company has been around since the 1920s under various guises, existing as METALSHIPS for the past decade. METALSHIPS began, as all other Vigo yards and others in the industry did, as a company serving the region’s fishing vessels, and has just been awarded a contract by North Sea Shipping, of Bergen, Norway, to build the largest Offshore Construction Vessel (OCV) the world has ever seen. At over 130 metres long, 30 metres beam, and with 22 megawatts of installed power, it’s certainly a big job. IRJ spoke with Vicente Santiago, CEO for METALSHIPS, to find out more about why this company is the one for the job, how it has grown and what it will do next.
According to Santiago, METALSHIPS’ formative years serving the Vigo fishing industry were spent on activities such as repairing and building, from wood to steel; a world away from the types of contracts it works on today.
“Gradually we moved to merchant ships, looking for specialisation all along the journey. Today METALSHIPS Is a shipyard specialised in highly sophisticated offshore vessels,” he says. “Today we do complement ship repair and shipbuilding of specialised ships. In ship repair we make use of the geographical location of the yard and serve on a 75-25 basis national and international clients. In shipbuilding we have evolved from small fishing vessels and ferries to the highly sophisticated large offshore vessels.”
If ever there was a great example of this evolution, METALSHIPS contract for the North Sea Giant is it. Santiago places emphasis on the company’s early years, indicating a couple of milestones which, while practically incomparable to the scale of its projects today, do signify continual growth and development.
The first such milestone he cites is the “first shipbuilding contract under METALSHIPS’ name after an inactivity period of more than 15 years of building vessels.”
“[This was] a contract for 2 small factory trawlers for Aalesund fishermen,” Santiago explains, “a really remarkable accomplishment that permitted METALSHIPS to initiate a path that brought us to be one of the most successful shipyards not only in Spain but also in Europe.” Next came METALSHIPS’ first contract with North Sea Shipping, which Santiago says, “entailed the shipyard specialisation in a market segment that has proven to be very successful.”
Recently, after six months of negotiation, METALSHIPS was proudly awarded the contract for an offshore construction and pipe-laying vessel for J RAY MCDERMOTT and OCEANTEAM.
“This confirms our position of specialised shipbuilders among the most demanding offshore clients in the world,” Santiago says.
Yet alongside the exponential growth METALSHIPS has enjoyed over the past decade, in particular, Santiago carefully points out that the company’s key strengths lie in, “both specialisation in high-tech ships and having known to size the company correctly.” In this, METALSHIPS has retained a first-class, highly skilled workforce and been able to grow without compromising on standards, quality or client relations.
The voyage ahead
Whilst many a new report might suggest that the Asian markets would put great pressure on a company like METALSHIPS, Santiago accepts their weight, and says that it can be used advantageously.
“The main challenges of the business are the fierce competition of China and other SE Asian countries and the industry developments, although the latter can also be a source of opportunities for those that anticipate them correctly,” he says.
The future for METALSHIPS looks bright, and Santiago says that the company’s main aim, whilst retaining those famed standards of skill and quality, is expansion. “We have recently bought a small neighbouring yard that will permit us to sensibly increase our land and sea areas and thus work more efficiently,” he says.
“Current strategy aims at reinforcing our ship repair capacity possibly by buying a third larger floating dock, but always being alert and exploring the new-building market, looking for new opportunities, in offshore or other attractive market segments.”
Whether it is building the biggest OCV ever, or harking back to the days of trawlers, METALSHIPS really does have so many years of experience to draw on, the company has been able to safeguard high product standards and accomplish huge growth and development. It undoubtedly takes something extra special to be one of the world’s best offshore vessel, pipeline and platform construction and maintenance companies, and it looks like this giant, grown from a little business in a Vigo yard, has it all.