Contracting and execution risks

The main operational risks for Boskalis are related to the contracting and execution of projects. For most of our contracting activities the most common type of contract is fixed price/lump sum. Under this type of contract the contractor’s price must take into account virtually all the operational risks as well as the (cost) risks associated with the procurement of materials and subcontractor services. In most cases, it is not possible to charge clients for any unforeseen costs.  Furthermore, many contracts include milestones and associated penalty clauses for if the milestones are not achieved on time. That is why great emphasis is placed on identifying, analyzing and quantifying such delay risks and the associated operating costs during the tendering procedure and the preparation and execution phase of a project.

Operational risks mainly relate to variable weather or working conditions, technical suitability and availability of the equipment, unexpected soil and settlement conditions, wear and tear of equipment (especially dredging equipment), damage to third-party equipment and property, the performance of subcontractors and suppliers, and the timely availability of cargo or services provided by the client in case of heavy marine transport and/or installation activities.

The following measures are taken systematically to manage the aforementioned risks in the tender, preparation and/or execution phase of a contract:

  • During the tendering procedure and the contracting phase of projects much emphasis is placed on identifying, analyzing and quantifying execution, costs and delay risks. Contracts are classified based on their size and risk profile. This classification determines the subsequent course of the tender procedure and the requirements for authorization of the tender price and conditions. Above a certain level of risk, tender commitments require authorization at Board of Management/Group Management level.
  • In the preparation phase of a project tender and depending on the nature and risk classification of the project, we gain insight by conducting surveys and soil investigations, by consulting readily accessible databases containing historical data and by applying extensive risk analysis techniques. The results of the risk analysis are then used in the process of costing the project and in setting the commercial and contractual terms and conditions for the offer to be issued to the client. 
  • Risks related to price developments on the procurement elements of a project, such as costs of materials and services, subcontracting costs and fuel prices, as well as the cost of labor, are all taken into account in calculating cost prices. Wherever possible, and especially on projects with a long execution time, cost indexation clauses are included in the contract terms and conditions, particularly regarding labor and fuel costs.
  • When a contract is awarded, an updated risk analysis is part of the project preparation phase, based upon which measures are taken to mitigate the risks identified.
  • In addition, much attention is devoted to the education and training of staff, appropriate project planning and project management, the execution and implementation of certified quality, safety and environmental systems, and the optimal maintenance of equipment.

Within the Towage & Salvage division, the towage activities are characterized by a broad geographical spread of the activities, which are conducted by autonomous strategic joint ventures with third parties. Towage contracts are often carried out under long-term contracts, with fees that are reviewed annually. This means that the risks in terms of local wage cost developments, fuel price developments and the available capacity of the equipment must be considered. Terminal services, which have been incorporated in the Smit Lamnalco strategic joint venture, are to a substantial extent performed under long-term contracts corresponding to the client’s requirements and specifications. Most of these contracts include some form of price indexation.

Salvage activities relating to vessels in distress –  Emergency Response – are often carried out under great time pressure and without an extensive tendering procedure and associated preparation activities. Such contracts are therefore often concluded based on the standard Lloyd’s Open Form (LOF). This means that compensation is based on a valuation mechanism related to various factors, including the salvage value of the vessel and its cargo, the technical complexity of the salvage operation, environmental risks and the use of own equipment and subcontractors. This valuation results in a lump sum, which is finalized through negotiations with the client or through an arbitration process. Experience shows that the company is usually able to make a reasonably accurate estimate of this income. Should it transpire during a salvage operation that the final salvage fee may not be sufficient to cover the costs incurred, then the choice can be made to convert the LOF into a contract based on a daily hire fee, thus limiting the financial risks. Contracts forsalvaging sunken vessels (wrecks) are usually carried out on a lump sum basis. The contracting and execution of such projects, which in many cases do involve a tendering procedure, are subject to the customary procedures for contracting and execution activities applicable within the company.

Some of the equipment within the Offshore Energy division, as well as in some of the strategic joint ventures, is chartered out for relatively short periods (spot markets), mainly subject to standard conditions. The depressed state of the oil and gas sector, which has reduced the volume of work under long-term contracts, has resulted in a growth of the share of the spot market activities. Although the operational risks involved in such activities are generally relatively limited, they do result in increased utilization and pricing risk, which we aim to mitigate through adequate capacity and strict cost control management.

Environmental and social risks

The nature of most of our activities means that we have an impact on society and the environment. In many cases this impact will be positive, for example when we are involved in creating infrastructure, making land safer or facilitating the transition to renewable energy sources such as offshore wind. However, a potential negative impact during the execution of projects cannot be ruled out. Environmental risks include the impact of turbidity on vulnerable ecosystems. Boskalis has developed the innovative Building with Nature program and has an in-house engineering department to address ecological aspects from the early tender stage through to monitoring during execution.

Social risks include the impact of projects on local communities. The extent to which our activities have a social impact is highly dependent on the type and/or location of a project. Where relevant, we implement a social impact program and work with our clients to mitigate the impact and where possible make a positive contribution to communities affected by our activities.

ICT risks

Like most companies, Boskalis is faced with an increase in ICT security risks and more sophisticated levels of computer crime. Successful cyberattacks can result in significant costs as well as other negative consequences, such as loss of revenue, reputational damage, remediation costs and other liabilities to stakeholders. Furthermore, enhanced protection measures place additional financial and operational burdens on the business. To help mitigate these risks Boskalis has developed information security policies and practices based on the international Code of Practice for Information Security Management. During the year under review we intensified the monitoring of suspicious activity on our ICT infrastructure. Additionally, initiatives were taken to raise awareness of information security risks among our staff and prompt an appropriate response to any unusual activity.

Local working condition risks

Local management on projects and operations must have a proper understanding of the local (working) conditions. The scale of local operations is often too small to warrant a fully-fledged organization, complete with extensive support services and staff departments. This is addressed through regular visits by responsible managers and employees from the relevant business units and support from central staff departments at head office as well as external advisors.

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