There were 303 civil turbine helicopters dedicated for offshore operations in the asia-pacific region at the end of december 2020 – a decrease of nine units (a drop of about 2.9%) since 2019. The offshore fleet makes up around 7% of the total civil turbine helicopter fleet in terms of units, however it represents about 16% of the total fleet in terms of fleet value.
Many industry experts were confident that 2020 would be the year that O&G market started its long-awaited rebound. The industry, which had been struggling due to the ongoing downturn in O&G and overcapacity of heavy helicopters, saw major changes in 2019 – Waypoint’s bankruptcy filing and subsequent acquisition by the Macquarie Group, as well as similar filings and restructurings by US-based operator PHI and Bristow Group. Additionally, the escalating tensions due to the trade war between the US and mainland China threatened global economic growth, leading to lower demand, and thus lowering the price of oil. Several operators placed helicopters in storage or changed mission configurations for more profitable operations, resulting in a decrease in offshore configured helicopters.
However, 2020 was expected to be the year that the O&G market put the worst behind it and slowly began its rebound. The change was not expected to be overnight or even a full-blown revival, but rather a slow and steady improvement. No one however was ready for what happened next – 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus quickly swept across the world, infecting millions, and crippling the world economy. The virus was so deadly and far-reaching that we are still, even a year after it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, seeing its effects.
The pandemic derailed the global economy from its projected growth and forced several countries across the globe to enter recession, and as a result, the demand for oil plummeted and the O&G industry suffered further.
The offshore configured helicopter fleet flew two different types of missions in Asia-Pacific. The majority, 286, flew O&G missions. This was 19 (6%) fewer than in 2019, which can largely be attributed to the crash in oil prices.
The remaining 17 helicopters flew Marine Pilot Transfer missions. This was a huge jump of 140% over the seven helicopters in 2019.
The nine net deductions in 2020 were attributed to three new deliveries, three pre-owned additions, 23 deductions and eight net mission changes to offshore (most of the changes were for Marine Pilot Transfer). Australia and Papua New Guinea accounted for the largest offshore fleet deductions in 2020 – five each.
Airbus and Leonardo remained the most popular OEMs in terms of market share, with a fleet of 110 helicopters (36%) and 83 helicopters (27%), respectively. Sikorsky came third, with a fleet of 79 helicopters (26%), followed by Bell with 26 helicopters (9%).
There were 65 Leonardo AW139 helicopters used for offshore operations in 2020 – the single most used offshore helicopter model in the Asia-Pacific region. The Airbus AS365 and Sikorsky S-92 were the second and third most popular offshore models, with 32 and 31 helicopters, respectively.
Mainland China experienced the largest net addition of offshore helicopters in 2020 – by three units. The net fleet changes in 2020 helped mainland China overtake Australia as the country with the largest offshore helicopter fleet – 65 units (21% of the total offshore fleet). Australia dropped to second place with 58 offshore helicopters (19%), followed by India in third spot with 46 (15%).
Citic Offshore Helicopter Co. (COHC), which was 2019’s largest Asia-Pacific offshore operator with 39 offshore helicopters, saw an increase in its offshore fleet by one, and retained its top position in 2020. Malaysia-based Weststar Aviation grabbed the second spot with the addition of two helicopters in 2020 and now has a total of 21 helicopters in its fleet. India-based Pawan Hans, Vietnam-based Vietnam National Helicopters, Australia-based PHI jointly came third with 17 offshore helicopters each.
The year 2020 has not been kind to the O&G industry, with the dramatic drop in oil prices putting many companies at risk of going bankrupt before the global economy has the chance to pick up again. Several countries have developed COVID-19 vaccines and started vaccinating their populations. The global economy is expected to recover as vaccinations become more readily available and as the pandemic reaches its much-awaited end. However, despite there being light at the end of the tunnel, a complete COVID-19 free world is not expected to be achieved till at least the end of 2023, if not longer. Thus, 2021 is not expected to provide any relief for the offshore operators, and the survival of many companies will be at risk, leading to further reductions inthe Asia-Pacific offshore fleet.
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