The Netherland-based Royal Boskalis Westminster (Boskalis) has planned to reduce its fleet size, and will retire 24 of its vessels over the next two years after completing a fleet rationalisation study announced earlier this year.

The fleet reduction will lead to a loss of nearly 650 jobs across the globe during the period of 2016-2018.

Out of the 650 affected jobs, around 150 will be in the Netherlands.

"The volume of work in the market has fallen sharply and this is putting pressure on the utilisation rate of our vessels."

Boskalis conducted the study against the backdrop of weakening market conditions and an expected prolonged period of low energy and commodity prices.

Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski said: "After a few very busy years the market outlook for Boskalis has changed drastically as a result of continuing low energy and commodity prices. The volume of work in the market has fallen sharply and this is putting pressure on the utilisation rate of our vessels.

“Because we expect these market conditions to persist in the coming years it is essential that we adapt the size and composition of our fleet to this new reality. We are fully aware that this intended decision is drastic and that it will have a major social impact.

“While we will try to absorb the work force reduction through attrition and redeployment wherever possible, compulsory redundancies unfortunately look to be unavoidable. A reduction of the number of vessels and jobs is however necessary to ensure that Boskalis remains healthy going forward."

Of the vessels to be taken out of service, ten are in the dredging division and 14 are at the offshore energy division of Boskalis.

The to-be-retired vessels include trailing suction hopper dredgers, cutter suction dredgers, anchor handling tugs and heavy transport vessels.

Boskalis will execute the fleet rationalisation through scrapping, sale and lay-up of vessels.

The vessels, which are over 30 years of age, will be scrapped at certified shipyards in accordance with the Hong Kong Convention and Boskalis' own standards.

Boskalis noted that the proposed fleet rationalisation will not affect the company’s strategy, which intends to be benefitted from major macroeconomic factors that drive worldwide demand in the relevant markets.