While there is some vessel migration between regions, key factors such as mobilization costs, vessel suitability and government statutes prohibiting foreign-flagged vessels from operating in certain waters, or coastwise cabotage laws such as the Jones Act, can limit the migration of OSVs. Because some MPSVs are generally utilized for non-cargo operations, they are less limited by cabotage laws. Demand for OSVs, as evidenced by dayrates and utilization rates, is primarily related to offshore oil and natural gas exploration, development and production activity. Such activity is influenced by a number of factors, including the actual and forecasted price of oil and natural gas, the level of drilling permit activity, capital budgets of offshore exploration and production companies, and repair and maintenance needs in the deepwater oilfield.
Offshore exploration and production activities are increasingly focused on deep wells (as defined by total well depth rather than water depth), whether on the Outer Continental Shelf or in the deepwater or ultra-deepwater. These types of wells require high-specification equipment, which has driven the recent and nearly completed newbuild cycle for drilling rigs and for OSVs. There were 43 floating rigs under construction or on order on February 7, 2018 and, as of that date, there were options outstanding to build four additional floating rigs. In addition, on that date, there were 91 high-spec jack-up rigs under construction or on order worldwide, and there were options outstanding to build 15 additional high-spec jack-up rigs. Most, if not all, of these rigs were ordered prior to the downturn in oil prices that has persisted since late 2014. Consequently, the market for deepwater drilling rigs is expected to be over-supplied for the forseeable future. This oversupply of rigs may drive down the cost of contracting a drilling rig, with the result that more rigs are employed, which could positively impact utilization of supply vessels. Each drilling rig working on deep-well projects typically requires more than one OSV to service it, and the number of OSVs required is dependent on many factors, including the type of activity being undertaken, the location of the rig and the size and capacity of the OSVs. During normal operating conditions, based on the historical data for the number of floating rigs and OSVs working, we believe that two to four OSVs per rig are required in the GoM and even more OSVs are necessary per rig in Brazil where greater logistical challenges result in longer vessel turnaround times to service drill sites. Typically, during the initial drilling stage, more OSVs are required to supply drilling mud, drill pipe and other materials than at later stages of the drilling cycle. In addition, generally more OSVs are required the farther a drilling rig is located from shore. Under normal weather conditions, the transit time to deepwater drilling rigs in the GoM and Brazil can typically range from six to 24 hours for a new generation vessel. In Brazil, transit time for a new generation vessel to some of the newer, more logistically remote deepwater drilling rig locations are more appropriately measured in days, not hours. In addition to drilling rig support, deepwater and ultra-deepwater exploration and production activities should result in the expansion of other specialty-service offerings for our vessels. These markets include subsea construction support, installation, IRM work, and life-of-field services, which include well-stimulation, workovers and decommissioning.
Our charters are the product of either direct negotiation or a competitive proposal process, which evaluates vessel capability, availability and price. Our primary method of chartering in the GoM is through direct vessel negotiations with our customers on either a long-term or spot basis. In the international market, we sometimes charter through local entities in order to comply with cabotage or other local requirements. Some charters are solicited by customers through international vessel brokerage firms, which earn a commission that is customarily paid by the vessel owner. Our operations and management agreement with the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command was a sole source selection based upon certain capabilities unique to the Company that were developed while the applicable vessels were chartered to the Navy. All of our charters, whether long-term or spot, are priced on a dayrate basis, whereby for each day that the vessel is under contract to the customer, we earn a fixed amount of charter-hire for making the vessel available for the customer’s use. Some of the long-term contracts for our vessels and all of our government, including national oil company, charters contain early termination options in favor of the customer; however, some have fees designed to discourage early termination. Long-term charters sometimes contain provisions that permit us to increase our dayrates in order to be compensated for certain increased operational expenses or regulatory changes.
The offshore support vessel industry is highly competitive. Competition primarily involves such factors as:
quality, capability and age of vessels;
quality, capability and nationality of the crew members;
ability to meet the customer’s schedule;
safety record, reputation, experience and;