A heritage of entrepreneurial trailblazing

First Indian private company to own and operate OSVs in 1980s

In the early 1980s, the shipping industry worldwide and in India was going through a downturn. However, offshore activity was gathering steam with ONGC’s Bombay High having commenced significant production. Despite this, India was yet to have professional expertise in supporting multi-million-dollar offshore installations. Until then, the offshore support business was dominated by foreign companies and personnel. In the early 80s, the government opened up the ownership and operation of Offshore Supply Vessels (OSVs) to private Indian companies, and Essar was one of the first to take up the challenge.

Initially, Essar hired a small fleet of OSVs from a German company, which were helmed by crews of German descent. Essar employed an Indian crew to train under the Germans. Once the Indians developed expertise in offshore support technologies, Essar purchased its own fleet of 6 OSVs. Essar went on to invest in Diving Support Vessels (DSVs) and Multi Support Vessels (MSVs), adopting the same approach—getting an Indian crew to train under German, British or Australian leadership until they had acquired the skills to take over the operations. In this way, between 1983 and 1988, Essar had nurtured over 1,000 Indian seafarers as world-class offshore support professionals who could provide end-to-end services to Bombay High’s sophisticated offshore installations. The attached photograph shows four of the six OSVs that Essar purchased and contracted to ONGC.

The OSVs, DSVs and MSVs ably complemented Essar’s ships, adding diversity to the fleet and providing a hedge to downturns in the Shipping business. Around the mid-1980s, the Government also opened up the contract drilling business to private players. Once again, Essar used the opportunity to enter the sector, going on to become among India’s largest private sector rig operators.