Strength in Depth
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Ben Foster
Considered the market-leading independent operator of carousels, modular drive systems and tensioner solutions for the global oil & gas, telecommunications and energy industries, Aquatic Engineering & Construction Ltd, an Acteon Company, has spent more than four decades refining its products and services to emerge with unrivalled reliability and an impressive safety record. Today, this progressive outlook represents the Company’s drive to continuously improve and seek new and smarter ways of working and set the industry standard-bar high.
David Tibbetts, VP Technology at Aquatic recalls: “When I joined the Company in 2007 following the takeover by Acteon Group, my strategy was to begin developing Aquatic beyond the North Sea and transform the organisation into a reputable international operation. Moving with our customers has always been something we like to do - ever since establishing a second office here in Aberdeen at the request of one of our US customers back in 1974 - and this has formed a key part of our expansion strategy over the years.”
The boost from Acteon was profitable from both a revenue generation and capacity perspective, allowing the Company to operate around the world as and when required, an investment that included establishing an Asia-Pacific subsidiary Company in Singapore; a welcome addition to its existing offices in US and the UK.
“Since the takeover in 2006, revenues have, at their peak, increased five-fold and what was once a small family-run Company is now an international organisation equipped with a vast-reaching reputation for excellence across a whole host of market segments; including mooring ropes and wires, renewables, decommissioning, IRM (inspection repair and maintenance), subsea installation in both deep and shallow waters and onshore support services,” he adds.
Aquatic has always placed emphasis on reliability and to achieve this today involves investments in the relevant technologies to improve efficiencies. “We have spent a significant amount of time honing the design of our tensioners that we rent to the subsea market,” Tibbetts says. “These complicated machines are equipped with a huge amount of electronic controls, as well as hydraulics and mechanics, so as you can imagine, carrying out maintenance on such machines can prove time-consuming.”
“To combat this, we created the tensioner VPN software which can interrogate the machine offshore, allowing us to identify the fault remotely and guide the offshore technicians through the process. Essentially this makes us a ‘virtual engineer’, avoiding the additional cost and time in getting an engineer out to site. We have seen considerable success from this system which is now available on our whole range of tensioner machines,” he adds.
This investment in technology to streamline efficiencies marks just one pillar of Aquatic’s ongoing research & development programme.
Testament to its ongoing initiatives to increase the health & safety of its employees, Aquatic has just surpassed an impressive milestone of four years without a lost time incident; the wider Acteon Group similarly following suit having surpassed three years.
“This huge achievement has only been possible thanks to adhering to a positive safety culture that has been years in the making,” says John Spellman, Aquatic’s HSEQ Manager. “First and foremost, the health, safety, environment and quality policies and procedures we have in place are in recognition of the daily risks and dangers – such as working at height – that our employees could experience; and making sure that the appropriate controls are implemented when dealing with these activities and in a way that our clients expect.”
Rather than outsource to training centres, Aquatic invited its training partners in to create a bespoke Work at Height and Rescue course for offshore and yard personnel, generating increased confidence among the workforce. Spellman explains: “Major emphasis has always been placed on in-house training.
However, we also have to manage our expectations and costs to make it happen.
“One of the ways I achieved this was attending an IOSH (Institute of Occupational Safety & Health) familiarisation course – comprising an IOSH Working Safety and IOSH Managing Safely – enabling me to become an accredited IOSH trainer. This was cost-effective in the long-term for the Company and I am able to deliver the same course in-house with a much more refined and personal touch.”
Further supporting this expertise is a robust management system verified by LRQA and the achievement of a steadily increasing score from FPAL (averaging a score of 9.1 out of 10 since 2009), who ensure that the Company meets all required industry and legislation standards.
“Continuous improvement of our people-processes is the backbone of Aquatic, and we plan to solidify this further by achieving the new ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and the upcoming ISO 45001 (which replaces OSHAS 18001) quality, environment and health & safety standards over the course of the next year,” he summarises.
Given the current volatility felt in the oil & gas industry, Aquatic is looking at ways to diversify to remain ahead in a tightening market.
Tibbetts confirms: “The market slump has meant we have had to review and consolidate our business activities, which has been a difficult task. The market is tightening its purse strings and looking for a supplier that can cut costs without compromising on quality of service. Our historically strong reputation and support structure has boosted customer confidence in our delivery. This, in tandem with our growing global roots, has helped us to gain a slightly bigger market share albeit in a much reduced market. Our current position therefore forms a good foundation on which to retain customer confidence and our strength when the market recovers.”
This determination to succeed and remain ahead of the latest industry trends comes across in the Company motto, ‘strength in depth’ which has been a guiding force for Aquatic to remain a master of its craft and a dependable partner of choice.
“One such trend is to make your equipment as easy to assemble and operate as possible,” he emphasises. “Our equipment is modular; enabling it to fit inside a 40-foot container which means it is easily transportable to any location, where it can be assembled onsite. Customers do not have to come to us, we go to them.”
This competitive business model has seen the Company work with an array of well-known multinational companies in some of the world’s most advanced oil & gas markets, including New Zealand, Australia, the Americas, China and Asia-Pacific; most recently capitalising on the growing opportunities across the EMEA region.
“In Africa, there is huge demand for new installation projects, while the Middle East is presenting us with a mixture of new installation and IRM opportunities that we are keen to capitalise on. In light of these developments, we have stored equipment in Dubai as well as in Ghana where it is pending use for a new project,” Tibbetts adds.
Aquatic is currently in a consolidation phase, and yet the Company is still cultivating market share given its growing international presence and drive to enter markets.
Tibbetts concludes: “We have aspirations to grow the business, but they will of course depend on the wider industry outlook. Like all players in oil & gas, we are hoping for a period of stability.
“For now though, we remain a confident player that has reaped the benefits of a promising consolidation strategy. Today, the industry is looking for the companies with the best processes and the best reliability to be able to deliver the scope required with the least amount of expenditure and we strongly believe that Aquatic will continue to fit the bill.”