THE offshore and marine sector is picking up steam after a lacklustre period, thanks to stable oil prices, rising energy demand and an increasing number of oil rigs being deployed.

While companies in the sector are cautious about short-term volatility, they remain optimistic about long-term fundamentals, said Maybank Kim Eng analyst Yeak Chee Keong in a research report on Tuesday.

Companies have been clinching big contracts and share prices have soared.

Mainboard-listed Yangzijiang Shipbuilding said yesterday that it has secured a deal for four very large ore carriers from its first Australian customer.

"The shipbuilding industry is experiencing a rise in demand for larger vessels that provide higher carrying capacity," said Mr Ren Yuanlin, the company's executive chairman.

Yangzijiang shares closed 4.5 cents up at $1.09 following the announcement.

Other firms in the sector have seen their share prices soar this year, including Pacific Radiance, which has risen almost 50 per cent since January, and Vard Holdings, up 37 per cent.

Five of the 14 companies in Mr Yeak's report said they would continue investing in new vessels, amid stable oil prices and rising global energy needs.

More rigs will be delivered over the next two years, which will boost demand for offshore support vessels, said Mr Yeak.

Operators are particularly optimistic about the Brazilian and Asia-Pacific markets, the analyst added.

Ezion and Mermaid Maritime, both of which charter out or operate support vessels, should ride on the wave of heightened activity in the offshore energy sector and see stable demand for maintenance activities, the report said.

Shipbuilders Nam Cheong and Vard are also expected to benefit from the stronger demand for support vessels.

With increasing protectionism in the industry, companies that are able to operate in foreign markets by satisfying local content requirements are likely to be in a better position to grow, said OCBC Investment Research in a report earlier this month.

For instance, Singapore-based fleet owners that are keen on expanding into the increasingly strict Indonesian market have been turning to partnerships.

Nam Cheong's significant exposure to the Malaysian market and established relationships with its customers put it in a good position to obtain more orders, said the OCBC report.

Its preferred picks include Pacific Radiance, which has considerable exposure to the Indonesian market, and Ezion Holdings, for operating in niche areas with a positive outlook.