Turkey Purchases its Fourth Drillship

stranded assets
Bolette Dolphin (file image courtesy Dolphin Drilling)

Published Feb 11, 2021 6:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of Turkey is in talks to buy its fourth drillship, adding new capability to its controversial offshore E&P campaign in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

According to Turkey's Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and state-owned oil company Türkiye Petrolleri are in advanced negotiations to purchase the Bolette Dolphin, an ultradeepwater drillship delivered in 2014. 

Dolphin Drilling, formerly Fred. Olsen Energy, moved to sell the Bolette amidst the market downturn in 2018. As part of a negotiated reorganization plan, Dolphin's creditors made arrangements to sell the ship the following year, and the holder of the Bolette's debt took ownership pending her sale. As of February 2020, the vessel was still laid up and unsold. 

With the offshore drilling market stuck in a prolonged downturn and countless drilling companies undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, asset prices have been in decline. Turkey's third drillship, the Kanuni, had been sitting for five years when she was purchased in 2020, and she sold for just $40 million - a reflection of her long period in layup and the weak state of the market. 

Turkey's fourth rig purchase will draw attention from neighboring countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region, where Turkish seismic vessels and drillships have operated across EEZ boundaries for several years running. Tensions have eased in recent months, with the seismic vessel Oruc Reis returning from provocative forays into Greek-claimed waters in order to focus on surveying off Antalya. The seismic ship Barbaros Hayrettin Pasha has also returned from the Cypriot EEZ and has put into port at Mersin. 

All three other Turkish drillships are also engaged in domestic projects. The Fatih and Kanuni are working at a promising gas prospect in the Black Sea, and the Yavuz - well-remembered for its long exploration campaign off Cyprus - has put into port for maintenance.