BOATS: RM Shipping alleges ONGC tender bias

Vol 18, PW 14 (12 Mar 15) Exploration & Production

ONGC’s nine month-old tender to hire 10 crew boats for three years has run into more controversy with favouritism allegations in Category A1, where eight boats are needed.

Price bids were opened on November 14, 2014 but ONGC has yet to issue LoAs. An industry source speculates this is because of a relentless letter writing campaign by bidder RM Shipping, most recently on March 3 to ONGC chairman DK Sarraf and three other directors, protesting against ONGC's decision to accept bids for boats with fibre hulls.

Of the seven valid bidders in Category A1, fibre hull boats were offered by only the lowest bidder SHM Shipcare, which offered four boats, and Prince Marine, which came third offering two boats. All the others offered metal hull boats.

RM argues ONGC deliberately kept tender conditions vague to allow SHM and Prince to bid cheaper fibre hull boats. “Nowhere in the world are fibre hull boats used as crew boats in offshore oilfield operations,” RM tells us, adding that much lighter fibre hull boats are inherently unstable and unsafe on the open seas, especially when used as crew transfer boats.

Fibre hull boats are more prone to damage during collisions with landing platforms, he adds. This safety issue was highlighted at the pre-bid by RM, Arc Marine, SS Offshore and Vinayak Marine - ONGC evaded the question in its response.