Industry leading marine support

Blog: Leading North Star’s pioneering growth and bold transformation

Four years ago, Matthew Gordon took over the mantle as North Star CEO, steering the 137-year-old company onto a path of exceptional transformation and growth. Under his steadfast influence, the firm has shaken up the offshore wind sector with its hybrid-propulsion offshore wind ships, swiftly establishing itself at the forefront of the UK’s service operation vessel (SOV) market while solidifying its leading position in the North Sea’s conventional energy sector.

Here, Matt reflects on the journey so far and the ambitions firmly in his sight….

For over 50 years, North Star has been a key player in the competitive and challenging conventional offshore energy sector. This legacy has earned the business its well-deserved reputation for safety, reliability, and quality. As CEO, leveraging these attributes to help springboard the business into Europe’s burgeoning offshore wind scene to deliver a sustainable future has been my primary objective.

When I set out my five-year plan for the business back in June 2020, it focused on transforming the business into a leading European next-generation vessel operator and services company, growing more than six-fold, and reaching over £100 million in pro-forma EBITDA. I am very pleased to share that we are already well on our way to achieving these aspirations.

Today, North Star proudly stands as the UK market leader in two critical sectors thanks to our strategic vision and focus on operational excellence. Not only have we maintained our dominant presence in conventional energy with £400m worth of contracts under our belt this year extending in to the 2030s, but we have also made a truly impactful debut into the offshore wind market, where we have already also secured the same as our oil and gas backlog in the last 12 months.

Bringing to market our stunning, high-performance hybrid-powered SOVs and hybrid daughter craft - a first for the offshore wind sector – tipped the scales in our favour giving us the competitive advantage and winning us our first clutch of newbuild contracts with decade-minimum charters in 2021. Our first three SOVs were delivered to Dogger Bank ahead of schedule, and the fourth earmarked for the development is on track to be handed over early also. We have a further four SOVs under construction, including our first outside the UK for EnBW in Germany, and our first in the southern North Sea for Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy at East Anglia THREE. This total of eight SOVs nudges us ever closer to meeting our 2040 target of adding 40 offshore wind ships to our fleet, which is our asset decarbonisation deadline aligned to the sector’s net zero goals.

None of these achievements have come about by accident. One of our company’s values is innovation and we made a clear decision early on to become a technology enabler, using the best solutions available to create value for our clients. Together with our technology partners, which include VARD, Chartwell Marine, Alicat Workboats and MO4, we are delivering green ships optimised for operational efficiency while providing exceptional comfort for those living and working on board. We are also jointly spearheading an industry solution to mitigate vessel emissions in field with Stillstrom for electric SOVs and in-field charging.

Through our partnership with Partners Group, which acquired North Star in 2022 on behalf of its clients, along with our other investors, we have close to £500million fleet spend committed to date and this will ramp up as we secure more long-term charter awards. This figure is aligned to the broader industry trend which has seen over £3 billion poured into new tonnage since 2020 and an anticipated £9 billion needed by 2030, underscoring the massive potential for companies like ours, which have all their financial ducks in a row and a proven track record in simultaneous shipbuilding programme success.

Our concerted effort has also forged strong ties with the banking community and our first corporate capital facility, raised two years ago, was a significant milestone, though not without its hurdles. The Scottish National Investment Bank, with its transition focus, played a critical role in this phase, enabling us to secure further vessel orders. This month, we've completed another raise of up to £425 million with five commercial bank lenders, demonstrating increased market confidence in our business model. With corporate funding secured rather than project-specific financing, we have removed tender participation risks with a flexible financial muscle that ensures we are well-funded, well-resourced, and extremely well-poised for future success.

Key to all of this is our people. There is talent and expertise in every corner of our business, and it is second to none. We have an exceptional wealth of knowledge in-house honed from half a century of delivering around the clock, offshore safety critical vessel support. Having supercharged the leadership team with a raft of new senior hires across various key areas, we have added unparalleled strategic insight, top-tier sector intelligence, and deepened our commitment to advancing industry solutions, all of which positions us as industry leaders and sets a new standard in the market. Together with our 1,400-strong team across our sites in Aberdeen, Lowestoft, Newcastle, and Hamburg, we are driving change.

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Pam Wilson
BIG Partnership

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Jun 17, 2024