Aquatic Aims at Forging Alliances in Subsea Services Arena
- Business & Finance
Aberdeen-based provider of flex-lay solutions for the subsea industry, Aquatic, is a company with more than 40 years experience in onshore and offshore installation projects.
As part of Acteon’s subsea services group of companies, Aquatic is set up as an independent operator of modular carousels, reel drive systems and tensioner solutions for the oil and gas, telecommunications and energy industries.
Subsea World News has used an opportunity to bring you closer to what Aquatic is all about in an interview with the company’s managing director Martin Charles.
Martin Charles was appointed MD in August 2015 having joined Aquatic in June 2014. He has overall responsibility for setting the strategy, driving execution, and creating best practices for Aquatic. He also has responsibility for the company’s market development and project delivery globally.
You’ve been on the job as Aquatic’s Managing Director for a couple of months now, could you tell us a little bit more what you do and what is the company involved with?
I’ve been MD since August 2015, and it’s been a challenging start. I joined Aquatic in June 2014, and we’ve seen the global recession finally hit our industry. Having been in this business for over 30 years I have seen a number of the cyclical downturns. Aquatic is weathering the storm, but it’s still been a tough ride at times, as it has been for everyone. Companies are constantly looking to reduce cost and be more efficient and effective, and we’re no different; we have focused on realigning our day-to-day operations while driving improved costing models aimed at adding value to our customers. We’ve repositioned ourselves, concentrating on our ‘Strength in Depth’ across our core business, and we’ve been endeavouring to develop our global footprint by making sure we spend time meeting our clients face-to-face, rather than trying to do business at arm’s length. We’re operationally active in our three regions, The Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific, and we have made good on our promises of having kit within those regions; right now, our equipment is in seven distinct and strategic locations.
When you present Aquatic on the market, what are the projects you highlight and what makes you stand out from the competition?
We work across the subsea installation, IRM, decommissioning and renewable sectors. When we’re discussing operations with our customers, whilst their project will be the focus of the conversation, we may highlight projects of particular relevance. For example, if we’re talking to customers in the Middle East we’d focus on the multi-reel solution with Mermaid Subsea Services. If we’re in North America, we might highlight the project in British Columbia, Canada providing support to ITB Marine to lay power cables for the main provider of electricity. Or if we’re meeting with customers from China, we would consider the Lufeng project with COOEC. Above all we are keen to build long-term partnerships rather than just work on one-off projects. We emphasise our commitment to working closely with our customers, offering flexibility when we negotiate our contracts and the willingness to develop new technologies, at the request of a customer, for specific project challenges. We have always strived for easy interaction on projects; we are renowned for our reliable and robust equipment; we have a can-do attitude on the vessel and will support our customer and assist when we can, while maintaining our safe working practises. That’s what we are keen to ensure is part of Aquatic’s culture, that our strength in depth isn’t just about equipment and technology, it’s also about the very way our people interact, wherever they might be.
How is Aquatic adjusting to current Oil & Gas industry slowdown?
We have continued to innovate our offering and build a strong commercial platform for developing our global footprint. We see genuine opportunities for the SURF skills and expertise we provide since the industry is seeking supply chain partners who understand how to co-operate across a number of levels, across similar commercial, operational and cultural values and whose global footprint provides opportunities to drive value for money. In addition, we have
• Worked with our suppliers to drive efficiencies;
• Expanded our global footprint to ensure we are aligned to customer operations;
• Changed our approach and style from a sales and bid perspective – we are extremely flexible and innovative around how we can apply value to our customers;
• Re-structured our HQ and regions to improve focus on sales and delivery.
In August last year, you announced a contract for Moho Nord project offshore West Africa, what are the next steps for your company and what markets will you be aiming at?
Our strategy is clear: we want to be the preferred partner and market leader throughout all regions in which we compete. We’ll do this in a number of ways.
Firstly, by bolstering the teams worldwide. We are currently focusing in our Americas regional office in order to take full advantage of the opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico.
Secondly by leveraging our relationships with our sister companies within the Acteon Group. For example, the Acteon Group wants to lead the challenge in the subsea services arena and has introduced Acteon Field Life Service (FLS) to connect group company skills, technology and service in a more cohesive way. This broader offering, supported by deep domain knowledge in individual areas where we have a leading capability, means Acteon FLS will be seeking partnerships, and Aquatic will be participating fully.
And thirdly, by forming alliances across our supply chain. Recently we announced a global partnership with James Fisher Offshore; our combined expertise and capabilities will provide an enhanced back-deck service offering to offshore operators, and the integrated solution will deliver a significant added value to customers by streamlining operations.
Has competition grown in the renewables sector now that many contractors are looking into alternatives offshore?
It is inevitable that people will target renewables following the Oil & Gas downturn, but Aquatic has been involved in renewables since the inception and our strength in depth is apparent here too. There are more than 25 projects across Europe (specifically in the UK, Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands, France and Germany), in the pre-construction phase indicating that the industry will pick up its pace to fulfil the drive for the broadest possible energy pipeline. It is still quite a specialised market, and we are well positioned to provide solutions and services aligned to customer requirements and meet the challenges and opportunities in this exciting sector.
You’ve entered a joint industry project, led by DNV GL, to develop a set of guidelines for offshore equipment for cable and pipe laying, are there any plans for other or similar projects in the future?
The JIP agreement covers Aquatic’s participation on ‘The Development of Codes for Offshore Equipment for Cable and Pipe Laying – Phase 1’. Of course, we’re delighted to have been asked to be involved in this ground breaking project. The work involves engineering and technical experts from contractors and equipment manufacturers like ourselves getting together to try to establish joint industry guidelines for our type of equipment, where at present nothing exists. It is intended that subject to satisfactory completion of the first two phases, a third phase undertaken by DNV GL will result in the publication of an Offshore Standard or Recommend Practice for cable/pipe laying equipment.
Aquatic’s business model is based, in part, on forging strategic partnerships with other organisations therefore we may well be involved with similar developments in the near and mid-term future.
Subsea World News Staff