The West

Mermaid Marine Australia has won a contract worth more than $50 million providing offshore marine support to BHP Billiton Petroleum's floating operations off the North West coast.

The initial five-year contract will eventually make first use of a new offshore support vessel - the Mermaid Cove - under construction in Singapore.

The Mermaid Support would act as lead-in vessel until the Mermaid Cove is delivered this year.

The new vessel is designed to work in close quarters to tankers during the offtake operations of a floating production storage and offloading facility.

"The Mermaid Cove is a class leading, innovative vessel that further adds to MMA's production support capability," Mermaid managing director Jeff Weber said.

The BHP contract could be extended by up to two years.

Mermaid shares eased 10¢ to $3.50 yesterday, valuing the company at $783 million before the BHP contract was announced. The company's shares closed at $3.60 on Monday, the highest ever level.

The West Australian

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