News & Views

Osprey Limited

Osprey - Lady Anneke - Open hatch shipment
Osprey - Lady Anneke - Open hatch shipment

If it’s big – very big - and it requires lifting or moving you’ll need to talk to PKF Francis Clark client, Osprey Maritime.

Headquartered in Portishead and with offices in Newcastle, Redditch and Rotterdam, Osprey employ a team of marine and mechanical engineers to provide heavy logistics solutions for the construction industry both on and offshore.  They work in a wide variety of markets including oil & gas, marine renewables, power generation, cable logistics and large civil infrastructure projects.

The business was established in 1995 using the founding directors’ experience in engineering, seagoing and shipbroking to transport large engineered goods by matching cargoes to the appropriate vessels. It introduced road transport and overseas delivery solutions to the operation and then expanded from its Bristol headquarters by opening an office in Newcastle to service the North Sea oil & gas industry.

Ownership of barges and ships followed with Osprey now the largest cargo barge owner and operator in the UK. Instead of chartering barges from the Netherlands, they established an office in Rotterdam and now charter barges to the Dutch and wider European market.  By developing as an owner and operator of marine vessels the business not only provides access to equipment but detailed knowledge of operations and technical management adding huge value to projects.

Osprey has prospered by meeting some very considerable logistic challenges that others can’t address but has also survived some tricky periods, such as when the global oil price collapsed taking with it a large part of their business.

The answer, according to managing director Nigel Fletcher, was to adapt and seek out new markets where its highly qualified employees’ transferable skills could be applied.

The focus moved to land operations and the business again invested in acquiring heavy cranes and self-propelled modular trailers rather than hiring them, so becoming ever more self-sufficient and increasingly comprehensive in the heavy logistics services they provide. The willingness to adapt and invest in new equipment, including the recent acquisition of a 5,500 ton carousel for moving flexible pipes and subsea cable, is a feature of Osprey’s responsiveness to changing market conditions.

Nigel Fletcher said: “We had a good oil & gas business but the drop in oil prices saw a huge proportion of that business wiped out demonstrating the volatility of the markets we operate in and the absolute requirement of being adaptable and scanning the future for emerging opportunities.

“Half the people in the company are mariners, naval architects or marine engineers with others from civil or mechanical engineering backgrounds. As the market for Osprey’s services changes the transferable skill sets they have built are suitable for supporting the heavy logistics involved in construction of nuclear power stations and other big UK infrastructure projects.

“We changed course slightly and while we still have a marine and oil & gas business, we have started delivering into the Hinkley Point nuclear power station development, we have recently installed bridges for Network Rail and have been involved in London’s ‘super-sewer’ project.  We have also acquired a second crane specifically for bridge building and other large civil infrastructure projects.”

Osprey is also involved in electrical interconnector projects – the logistics of using heavy transport to install the physical links which allow the transfer of electricity across borders.  Moving heavy cable is another new market and, while the North Sea oil & gas industry is quiet, there is an upsurge in Mediterranean offshore activity.

Nigel said: “We offer logistic support to the construction phase of projects whether that’s on the seabed, in power stations or over railway lines.  We are not defined by our equipment but by the logistical solutions we can provide to big projects. Our skill is moving big equipment, if it weighs 150 tons it doesn’t matter if it is painted yellow because it’s going on the seabed or if it’s painted grey because it’s going down a hole in the ground.

“We market ourselves to businesses that require a high entry level in terms of equipment, technical skills, engineering skills or health & safety procedures. There is no British company that can do what we do i.e. undertake a heavy logistics project on land and water using our own equipment whether that’s barges, ships cranes, or our carousel.”

PKF Francis Clark partner Nick Farrant advises Osprey heading a team that provides a wide range of services including statutory accounts preparation, corporation and tonnage tax compliance and advice, VAT advisory services, payroll services and pension auto-enrolment advisory and compliance services.

He said: “We also provide statutory audit services for the Osprey Maritime Group and its joint venture "Osprey Heavy Lift" and we advise in respect of corporate structure and cross border tax considerations with regards to their newly incorporated Dutch subsidiary.

“Osprey is a remarkable business which is continually seeking out new markets and is prepared to invest in new equipment to break into them. It is a company that responds to change but has the core skills to make adapting to new scenarios possible.”

Nigel added: “As the business grew and changed, we looked for an adviser who was more local to out headquarters in Portishead.  We reviewed several firms but opted for PKF Francis Clark.

“I saw in them something akin to Osprey.  We are not a big multinational but we can do a top job because of our equipment, experience and expertise and that’s what I saw in Nick and his team.  They are able to draw in resources and expertise as it is needed.   We need appropriate advice with the right level of detail at the right time and we have the confidence in PKF Francis Clark that it will be there when we need it.”

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