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ROV support for subsea operations: critical considerations for companies when outsourcing equipment and personnel.

What role will our company play?

Project owners, developers and installation companies should consider what resources they have in house to contribute to the project.  In house management of project segments can dramatically reduce the overall cost of the project when compared to simply subcontracting out a work scope.

Some examples of resources or assets that could be utilized are:

  • In-house knowledge and experience.
  • Partnerships with other companies who can contribute: Partner companies may have experienced professionals who can contribute or even manage the planning, execution and/or reporting of a project for free or at a reduced rate.
  • Ships under charter or contract: e.g. Ships of adequate length with redundant dynamic positioning (DP2) could be mobilized with cable trenching equipment and used for Post Lay Inspection and Burial (PLIB). If a capable ship is already chartered for other work on a project, there may be an opportunity to utilize it for the trenching work as well.
  • Trenching and/or burial equipment owned or available for lease.
  • Experienced supervisors and operators in house to help perform the work.

What services do we actually need?

Managers and operational personnel at these companies must do their due diligence when selecting service providers for the many facets of offshore projects. Using subsea vehicle operators and equipment as an example, evaluating multiple companies can be a learning process resulting in sourcing the suppliers who best fit the project needs.

What skill sets do we need?

Subsea manning requires very specialized skill sets acquired with experience and time in the industry. The fluctuation in the subsea construction market between telecom, oil and gas and now the renewable energy markets results in ebb and flow of men and women working offshore.  During growth times there are newer entrants with less experience. This is not necessarily a bad thing if the people are vetted, have a solid knowledge base and are ready and willing to learn. During lulls in these industries, skilled operators can be lost to other more profitable industries.

Where do we get the specialized personnel we will need?

In many cases, a marine installation company will contract out specialized skill sets if it is not practical to employ them full time. Subsea vehicle operators are a good example. Unless a company can keep these people employed full time, it becomes difficult to keep a team of experienced operators within a single company. This is a scenario which makes contracting with a specialty manning company practical, cost-effective and convenient.

What is the optimal equipment for our specific needs?

For subsea trenching, there are often multiple tools that can accomplish a specific task, conversely there is no “one universal tool” that can handle all soil and operational conditions possible. It comes down to having the best available tool for the job. It will be the project managers, often with some outside consultation, who will need to consider and evaluate all the proposed equipment and determine what will be best for their project.

Where will the ROV or trenching equipment come from?

For projects of longer duration, it becomes cost-effective to purchase trenching equipment rather than renting it at a day rate or securing it with a long-term lease. Determine the payback period over the term and consider that the equipment can pay for itself in a few projects. With the increasing project load for subsea cable and oil field development, subsea ROV equipment is in demand. Owning equipment and partnering with a specialty manning company whenever it is needed can become a new and profitable revenue stream for your company.

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