Interview: From ‘Titanic’ to offshore rigs

  • Exploration & Production

Offshore Energy Today has interviewed Ms. Gillian White, a Business Development Manager of Harland & Wolff, a Belfast-based shipyard best known for the delivery of world’s largest ship at the time, the famous Titanic. However, the topic of our website is oil and gas, so we’ve covered that part of the yard’s services.


OET: Dear Ms. White, for those who know about H&W only through the Titanic story, can you tell us more about Harland & Wolff company today, and also, about oil & gas industry aspect of what the yard does?


White: While shipbuilding will always remain at the heart of what we do, we have diversified into the neighboring market spectrums; offshore energy, be it renewable (wind, wave or tidal) or more traditional offshore oil and gas for construction, design engineering, and repair/conversion.

The business is currently split into 3 main categories

* Marine and Offshore Unit Repair Upgrade, Conversion, and Decommissioning;

* Manufacture and Logistics for the Renewable and Oil and Gas Markets;

* Design Engineering.


OET: How strong is your team in Belfast (how many permanent workers)?


White: Harland and Wolff work on a project to project basis so our core team in Belfast is around 250 permanent workers but this will be supplemented with agency and temporary labour for the specific needs of the project. For example on a recent project, we had over 1000 personnel working on the Belfast site.

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OET: Who is your biggest client from the oil and gas sector?


White: Our biggest client varies depending on the project at that time, but we have worked with many companies in the Oil and Gas sector including, Husky Energy, BP, Chevron, Dolphin Drilling and Kvaerner.


OET: Can you help us understand the relationship between H&W, Dolphin Drilling and Fred. Olsen Energy?


White: Harland and Wolff is a wholly owned subsidiary of Harland and Wolff Group Plc, which in turn is 92.2% owned by Fred. Olsen Energy ASA, listed on the Norwegian Stock Exchange.


OET: Do you build offshore rigs, or has the O&G-related activity only been focused on special periodic surveys and maintenance of the rigs?


White: In recent years our focus has been on the repairs, upgrades and conversions for FPSO’s and rigs within the offshore market and the fabrication of topside modules and platforms.


OET: What is H&W yard’s competitive advantage when it comes to obtaining a contract for an offshore rig maintenance?


White: Through our history, Harland and Wolff has developed a superb technical skill set, which along with our world class facilities provides a pronounced advantage ensuring our customers get a full range of services and support for their project under one roof.


OET: Husky Energy in June started production from an offshore field in Canada using the Sea Rose FPSO. Harland & Wolff, in Belfast, was responsible for drydocking and repair of the FPSO, usually moored across the Atlantic, offshore St. John’s Canada.

Weren’t there closer options for Husky to, maybe, do the maintenance in Canada? Why was H&W chosen for that job?


White: We competed with many other yards, but ultimately Harland and Wolff were selected on the basis of our competitive tender and our unique facility, which was dedicated to the Searose Project for the duration. This project was completed 4 days ahead of schedule, on budget and with no LTIs.

OET: Do you feel any kind of pressure from the fact that the oil prices have plummeted since mid-last year?


White: The market downturn has affected us all and with less live projects currently available, it has increased the level of competition. Harland and Wolff continues to invest in plant, equipment and skills bespoke to our market as we must continue to improve.


OET: What was your latest rig project and how long did it take?


White: Our latest project was the Byford Dolphin SPS Renewal and Upgrade, which included improvements to the Stability and Buoyancy. The project took just under 6 months to complete.


OET: Your services include design and construction of offshore foundations, platforms, unit decommissioning, design of renewable energy devices etc. What is your priority at the moment?


White: All three of our business unit’s work independently and in conjunction with each other on projects as required and we actively look for work in all areas of the market.

The interview was prepared by Bartolomej Tomić and Nermina Kulović, Offshore Energy Today Staff

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