Norwegian offshore drilling company Seadrill has secured US$1.45bn in loans for the acquisition of three ultra-deepwater drill ships.

The finance has four tranches. The first tranche is led by ING, who acted as commercial co-ordinator and commercial bookrunner and is for US$203mn. This finance is uncovered.

The other three ECA tranches have been arranged by HSBC, who acted as sole ECA co-ordinator and ECA bookrunner. The second tranche is for US$575mn and is wholly covered by GIEK, the Norwegian ECA.

Tranche three is a US$336mn direct loan from Kexim, while the fourth tranche is a syndicated loan for the same amount, covered by K-Sure.

While the structure of the individual tranches is unknown, GTR understands that the mandated lead arrangers (MLAs) for the overall transaction are HSBC, ING, ABN Amro, BNP Paribas, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (BTMU), Citi, Credit Suisse, Kexim, KfW, NordLB, Standard Chartered and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group. This group represents the entirety of the lending base too.

The ECA-covered facilities have 12-year tenors, while the uncovered commercial facility has a tenor of five years.

The ships are to be constructed by Samsung Heavy Industry in South Korea, but a considerable amount of Norwegian content is to be used in the construction. A GIEK spokesperson confirms to GTR that Norwegian equipment and services to the tune of US$722mn will be used in the construction. The ships will be used for offshore drilling, with two operating in the Gulf of Mexico.

The deal represents the first time GIEK, K-Sure and Kexim have collaborated in the shipping and offshore sector and the first time Seadrill has worked with Korean ECAs. It is also the first time the Korean ECAs have accepted the use of Norwegian law on a transaction which, GTR’s source predicts, will set a precedent for future transactions.

It’s expected that K-Sure and Kexim, who often work independently, will collaborate further on offshore drilling transactions in the future. The robust offshore market is much more liquid than the general shipping market, and given the strength of the Korean shipbuilding industry, it’s likely that they will be active in further big ticket transactions to come.