Turkey now boasts a fleet of four rigs as ex-Vantage drillship finally finds home

Turkey’s national oil and gas giant TPAO has added another deepwater drillship to its fleet of drilling rigs, which are working in the Black Sea.

West Cobalt drillship; Source: Northern Drilling

According to the Turkish daily newspaper, Yeni Safak, Turkey’s state-owned player agreed with South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) to buy the West Cobalt drillship, previously known as Cobalt Explorer. The yard has been looking for a buyer for the ill-fated drillship for years with TPAO now being its third client.

TPAO has also recently shared an update, saying it now has four drillships in its fleet and that the latest one is of a 7th generation. However, no other details have been revealed by the company. TPAO’s three other drillships are of a 6th generation.

drillship - TPAO
Source: TPAO

Offshore Energy has reached out to TPAO seeking confirmation and further details about its deal with DSME but we are yet to receive a response.

What we do know about the drillship is that it was first ordered by Vantage Drilling back in 2013 but, before it was even finished, Vantage cancelled the order in August 2015, seeking to recover funds of about $60 million paid to the shipyard. Only days later, DSME also cancelled the deal for the construction of the drillship due to a contract breach. The drillship was said to be worth about $600 million at the time.

Several years passed and John Frederiksen’s Northern Drilling moved to buy two drillships from DSME, the West Aquila and the West Libra. These were previously ordered and cancelled by Seadrill. Within this deal, Northern also secured an option to buy a third drillship, the Cobalt Explorer, for about $350 million. This was in May 2018.

The option was exercised in April 2019 but come October 2019 and Northern Drilling cancelled the resale contract for the Cobalt Explorer, at this point known as West Cobalt, with DSME, citing a repudiatory breach of contract by the shipyard as the reason behind the cancellation. The two companies then in November of the same year entered a dispute over the cancelled order as the shipyard challenged Northern’s notice.

Orders for the other two drillships were also cancelled by Northern earlier this year, leaving the company with no rigs in its fleet.

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The Turkish daily also said that the Cobalt drillship would join TPAO’s fleet of three other drillships – Fatih, Kanuni, and Yavuz – and sail towards the Black Sea after it had been given a new name and following the completion of few adjustments by the shipyard.

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