Farra Marine- A Chat with the CEO

Martin Rice


Farra Marine- A Chat with the CEO

This November Cantor Fitzgerald launched an EIIS equity investment opportunity with Farra Marine, an Irish Crew Transfer Vessel (CTV) operator. With much excitement on the arrival of Farra Orla on Irish shores, we chat to CEO Martin Rice to learn about the genesis of the company, its key markets and the opportunities ahead.


What inspired you to set up Farra Marine?
I had been working in the offshore wind sector for several years and felt that there was a better way to approach the business. The initial phase of growth in the industry was focused more on having any type of vessel available rather than considering the actual requirements of the end customers, optimising the design and specification of vessels, the shifts in turbine technology as well as sustainability considerations. I strongly felt that the experience I had gained in the industry, along with Jason Parker, our Operations Director, and our combined understanding of both the vessels and customer requirements, that we could make a meaningful impact on the industry. When the Irish offshore wind sector started to gain momentum in 2018 and early 2019, I knew it was time to put a plan into action.


What have been the key milestones to date?
The last eighteen months have been extremely busy with many important milestones achieved. We put a clear plan in place from the outset for each phase of company growth and it’s been very rewarding to see our hard work paying off. One moment that stands out is signing for our first vessel, the Farra Orla, in September 2020 and seeing the progress on construction over the following months. Attending the official vessel launch in Singapore in June this year with the Irish Ambassador and our partner Penguin Shipyard was a personal highlight for both Jason and myself.


Tell us about your vessels and what makes them different?
Our vessels have been designed specifically for the offshore wind market, with input incorporated from the wider industry during the design process. They have been constructed by Penguin Shipyard, one of the global leaders in building aluminium vessels and with a reputation for quality craftsmanship. Finally, we have incorporated the years of experience of our team in the final build and design, improving the vessel performance and durability.


Our first two vessels are based on a 27m double hull catamaran design capable of carrying up to 24 windfarm technicians as well having 86m2 of cargo carrying capacity. The vessels can run on 100% HVO (biofuel) reducing carbon emissions associated with the vessel by up to 80%.


Where are your key markets?
The offshore wind market has quickly become a global industry over the last number of years with new markets taking off in China, the US, Taiwan and Vietnam to name a few. We are now seeing growth opportunities across all these markets and a growing list of additional new markets, which are now turning to offshore wind as part of their climate change strategies. We expect to be initially focused on the established markets in the UK and Europe where the team already have years of experience and a large network of contacts. We are also aiming to be the main CTV supplier to the Irish offshore wind sector once construction dates are announced on the first new projects to be built in Irish waters.


Do you see the COP26 negotiations influencing the growth of the offshore wind market?
The momentum in the offshore wind industry really started to grow several years ago as construction costs started to reduce, and turbine capacity started to increase making it more competitive. The announcement of the EU Green deal in 2019 is when we really started to see that momentum accelerate as the EU positioned offshore wind as a central pillar for the bloc’s climate change ambitions and 2050 targets. This was quickly followed by similar plans by the UK government to increase offshore wind capacity to 40GW from 10GW currently and then by several other major countries such as the US, China, Japan and Australia. In a short amount of time the industry has gone from a UK and European market of 20GW to a global industry covering every major economy with targets to install c.200GW of new capacity by 2030 and over 500GW’s by 2050.


This trend continued into COP26 and subsequent announcements following completion of the COP26 negotiations with both Germany and the Netherlands increasing their respective 2030 offshore wind targets and many other countries increasing capacity targets beyond 2030. Offshore wind has also become a key pillar for the wider decarbonisation plan particularly around the production of green hydrogen.


What are the main challenges facing the sector?
The biggest challenge for the industry is mobilising the scale of investment required to build a competent supply chain to meet the ambitious targets that have been set by the various governments. In the European and UK CTV market alone, it is forecasted that the number of vessels will have to at least double in the next 5-7 years to deal with the number of new offshore wind projects that will be constructed. This represents an investment of over €1.5bn just in the CTV fleet and does not consider that other new markets such as the US and Far East Asia will require similar levels of investment and new build capacity.


What is your vision for the business over the next 5 to 10 years?
We have set a bold vision for the company; we want to be a global player in the CTV market specifically focused on the offshore wind market. This will take time and will be achieved in stages. Our immediate target is to be one of the largest CTV providers in the European market within the next 3 years while setting the platform for further growth in new markets such as the US and Far East Asia.


If you were to pick one highlight for the business to date, what would that be?
Outside of the official launch of the Farra Orla in Singapore, a highlight for me must be the arrival of the Farra Orla into Arklow port recently and more broadly the encouragement and support we have received from our shareholders, customers, partners such as Penguin as well as the wider industry.


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Past performance is not a reliable guide to future performance.