February 2016

An ex-Captain’s perspective

From sailing the seas to championing reduced vessel time - MDL Americas president Mark Williamson explains the attraction of facing industry challenges with the back deck specialist

I spent many years at sea: from cadet to chief officer, to master. Through my progression up the ranks, my responsibilities changed, and experience of working on offshore vessels grew.

When working with companies like Maersk or Swire, I would be involved in rig moves or installation projects. Many of these hinted at a shortfall of hands-on experience from the people who wrote the procedures or those who designed and engineered the equipment. As a result, the crews on board had to work that much harder to achieve the project’s objectives. We would always get there in the end, but, looking back, valuable time could have been saved - and with it, a great chunk of money.

The deeper I moved into business development and management roles in the oil and gas sector, the more I could see how little attention had been given to time- and cost-saving innovation, in an industry flying high on $100-plus a barrel of crude.

But today, we’re in a different place, and so am I. Now, in my new role at MDL Americas, I also find myself in a new oil and gas industry - one with a renewed focus on viability of projects and an openness to exploring new concepts.

One of the things that drew me to Maritime Developments, when in early discussions with the team visiting Houston, was the desire to ensure that every piece of new equipment was an improvement on the previous one in terms of work efficiency and time saving capability.

One example of this is the Technip execution of the Kraken project in 2015, where the use of the MDL portable vertical lay system (PVLS), patented pipelay tensioner and reel drive system (RDS) saved the end client 11 vessel days on the first campaign. Now, 11 days may not sound like a lot - but when you consider that the most significant cost on any project is the vessel, the savings become considerable.

If we look at those 11 days a little closer, it becomes quite clear what makes up Maritime Developments DNA - or, in other words, what is running through everything we do, from concept development through to operational execution.

Having spent most of my working life on and around vessels, I really understood where MDL were coming from talking about “reducing vessel days”. This phrase was so much more than a sales pitch - it was a promise of a well thought-out equipment, designed to add value to every project it would undertake.

Since joining the MDL team in 2015, I now see that all of the employees live and breathe these values - which, in turn, creates an amazing working environment. When you take our forward-thinking approach to every aspect of project execution - from design right through delivery and offshore operation, to the successful demob after the job - and combine that with the fact that at every step of the way the product is touched by people who understand the end use and work in an environment open to improvement and feedback, the result is not just a piece of equipment - what you get is a value-adding problem solver.

This is a tough time to be in this industry, as companies grapple with expenditure and open up to new ways of cost-reduction. However, with the use of some smart equipment on the back deck, projects can cut costs without resource sacrifices - and that’s what makes me excited to be part of this journey with MDL.

Mark Williamson, president MDL Americas