When the time came to appoint a new chairman of the board in 2019, Danish OSV owner Maersk Supply Service (MSS) needed a leader with a diverse set of management skills, experience and insight into the oil and gas industry. It didn’t have to look very far, finding the perfect candidate within the Maersk family of companies.
Henriette Thygesen was appointed chairman of the board of MSS on 1 June 2019. A shipping industry veteran with more than 25 years’ experience, Ms Thygesen joined AP-Moller-Maersk as a management trainee in 1994.
As a young woman, she was driven by the opportunity to build an international career and at AP Moller-Maersk she was able to do just that, holding management roles of increasing responsibility in Europe, Asia and North America for Maersk Tankers, Maersk Oil and Maersk Logistics (later named Damco).
She was named chief executive of Svitzer, Maersk’s towage operator, in September 2016, coming from her role as chief executive of Damco Americas.
When she was appointed chairman of MSS, she retained her position as chief executive of Svitzer and is also chairman of the board of Maersk’s freight forwarder company Damco.
As chairman, Ms Thygesen is steering the transformation of MSS from an OSV owner to an integrated solutions provider, expanding the company’s portfolio beyond traditional oil and gas.
“Three years ago, MSS launched a new strategy that focused on three pillars: optimising our core business; introducing integrated solutions; and diversifying into new sectors,” she says.
“We have seen strong progress on all three elements and will continue to execute our plan to position MSS for the future.”
While oil and gas will remain the core industry for MSS, Ms Thygesen adds: “Do you want to be first mover, a fast follower or simply be run over by other players that were better at anticipating customer needs, transforming themselves accordingly? This I believe is a challenge and a question we all need to ask ourselves across the industry.”
She notes that while MSS is beginning to see clear signs of recovery with more tender activity, the OSV industry is still under pressure with many vessels in layup and low utilisation and rates. “The recovery is taking longer than expected; therefore, we find it prudent to continue our diversification efforts,” she says.
Part of the strategy, explains Ms Thygesen, is to take on larger project scopes for its customers, what it calls “integrated solutions.” Good examples of this, she says, are three large moorings projects won by MSS in which the company delivered project management and engineering on top of its in-house fleet of more than 40 vessels, showing “extensive experience as a marine service provider [and] demonstrating that we are now an established partner in this space,” says Ms Thygesen.
Diversification into new markets
The prolonged downturn in the offshore oil and gas market also provided an impetus for MSS to pursue new markets and new types of partnerships, based on its maritime knowledge, unique vessels and people, says Ms Thygesen: “Our target is to have one-third of our business generated by non-traditional oil and gas. Due to the versatile nature of our fleet and our experienced crew, we believe we have a good foundation to diversify and pursue new growth markets.”
Over the last three years, MSS has established a dedicated innovation team to focus on building a strong pipeline of projects with the clear objective of maximising the use of its assets and marine capabilities. The Danish OSV owner formalised this process in order to provide a clear structure to grow an idea from concept to market launch.
“Diversification is about investing in our future – we are building a robust pipeline of innovation opportunities,” states Ms Thygesen.
MSS’s diversification efforts are starting to pay off. “We have taken firm steps into new markets and matured actual partnerships and opportunities,” says Ms Thygesen. She cites the company’s penetration into the offshore wind sector with an innovative project for installation and clear ambitions for floating wind, its partnership on deepsea metals, the formation of a decommissioning joint venture with Maersk Drilling and support of the non-governmental organisation The Ocean Cleanup in removing plastic from the oceans. “All in all, strong progress, that will position MSS for the future,” she states.
For floating offshore wind projects, MSS has an integrated solution that offers planning and engineering, site preparation and pre-lay, towing, installation and onshore and offshore support. It also offers an in-house vessel fleet of 30 anchor-handling tug supply (AHTS) vessels, nine construction support vessels (CSVs) and three AHTS vessels fitted with offshore cranes.
MSS began working with DeepGreen Metals in 2017 on sustainable ways to harvest polymetallic nodules – small rocks containing valuable metals – from the ocean floor. Metals such as copper, cobalt, manganese and nickel are contained in the nodules, providing materials for electronics and batteries. Underpinning the project, studies were conducted offshore in the Clarion Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean at depths of 4,500 m.
In April 2018, MSS forged a 50-50 joint venture with Maersk Drilling to offer bundled solutions for up to 80% of the process required in decommissioning an offshore oilfield. The bundled solutions, in addition to project management, cover work scopes such as plug and abandonment of wells, towage of floating units and removal of subsea infrastructure. In the longer term, the JV plans to provide the full end-to-end process of decommissioning.
Elsewhere, MSS worked with The Ocean Cleanup, towing a specialised 600-m-long floating array that collected plastic debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for recycling.