We are honoured to have been prominently featured in this year's September/October print of the AustralASIA Magazine. Please see below an interview with our Development Strategy Manager, Alun Jones, talking about our latest design: a work basket STORM-WORK. Read on for opinion pieces written by Reflex Marine's Chief Operating Officer, Sandra Antonovic (on the importance of expertise and continuous improvement as means to reposition a company in a turbulent market) and Chief Executive Officer, Philip Strong, discussing the role played by marine transfers in emergency planning strategies.
TAKING THE WORLD BY STORM
an interview with Alun Jones
In August we sat down with Alun Jones, Development Strategy Manager at Reflex Marine and we talked about offshore work baskets and Reflex Marine’s latest product STORM-WORK, a work basket with advanced design and engineering including self-righting and floating features. Traditional work baskets are used throughout many industries, both on and offshore. Their use stretches from general maintenance and offshore repairs to inspection and surveys.
Oil and Gas Australasia: Reflex Marine developed and soft-launched a new generation work basket. What triggered the development of this product?
Alun Jones: We’ve been supplying crew transfer carriers to the offshore and marine industry for over 27 years now. We have the most advanced, the safest and the most cost-effective product in our product group. Further to that, in offshore crew transfer total product universe we are, by far, the option with the best safety track record: 10 years and
over 15 million transfers without a lost time incident. That is quite impressive in anyone’s book. During these 27 years Reflex Marine built and kept updating an incident data base. We are collecting data on relevant incidents, we analyse that data and we are learning from it. We did this for offshore crew transfer methods, and we did it now for work-baskets. This activity, enhanced with the feedback from the industry, started the process of identifying key design oversights in traditional work baskets. Reflex Marine’s Innovation and New Product Development Team collated common causes that led to injuries or fatalities. In most cases incidents occurred as a consequence of over-simplistic work basket design, lack of pre-use checks or lack of operational guidance.
Oil and Gas Australasia: You said that Reflex Marine created and kept updating the offshore transfers’ incidents database. Was there a reason why you decided to do this in house rather than just take data from a third party?
Alun Jones: Operating globally we did not really have that choice. There is no single legal entity or body that compiles, tracks and analyses this type of incident data. In our efforts to improve safety offshore and to keep transferring knowledge and expertise –often in an
open-source form – we shared this database with many of our clients and partners and it was one of our main contributions to Marine Transfer Forum, an independent body we are a member of.
Oil and Gas Australasia: Working offshore is often perceived as a high-risk job and activity. Could you tell us more about the risks when work baskets are being used?
Alun Jones: Working offshore is perceived as a high-risk activity because it is indeed a high-risk activity. The health and safety aspect of offshore operations keeps improving and we, at Reflex Marine, are both proud and grateful that we can contribute and that we are contributing in a very significant way. Both Norwegian and UK offshore safety standards, particularly those parts focused on crew transfer, changed and improved as a consequence of our products appearing on the market, but perhaps more so by our in-depth analysis of crew transfer operations, clear analysis of risks and simple yet effective way of mitigating them. Going back to work baskets, we’ve previously highlighted and articulated the main causes that lead to injuries or fatalities. These causes can be summarised as:
Immersion – When people are working near to shore or offshore, in situations of crane failure, wire rope failure or crane operator’s error – all these circumstances can lead to an immersion event.
Then we have crushing and trapping injuries – when people are working on the side of an installation where there is a high risk of the worker suffering a crush injury or being trapped inside the work basket.
The third main cause of incidents we identified is snagging – work basket designs do not traditionally have anti-snagging properties which enhances risks including falling, crushing and damage to the basket or installation.
Finally, we have lateral impacts – they are essentially high-velocity lateral impacts which can occur during lifting operations.
Oil and Gas Australasia: You explained earlier what inspired Reflex Marine to embark on a journey of designing and engineering a new product. Did you engage with any clients during this process, was there any external collaboration and how did all that work?
Alun Jones: Reflex Marine has always been an innovative company and we’ve managed to preserve that side of a “start-up” mindset during the past quarter of a century. Collaboration and openness to new ideas and methods are an integral part of the innovation process. We’ve always worked with clients and industry bodies because we were very much aware that our business rationale is to resolve issues that companies working offshore are encountering daily. One of our most popular products - especially in deep-water operations - our high capacity crew transfer carriers was a direct result of a very close collaboration between us and Seacor Marine, global leader in marine and support transportation services to offshore oil and natural gas exploration, development and production facilities. Another great and very productive collaboration we had was with Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL) (now Seaway 7) a company that manages and performs transportation and heavy lifting of offshore structures. Seaway 7 are involved in project management, engineering, fabrication, heavy lifting, cable installation and decommissioning services. During their operational planning process they identified a need for a more durable and sustainable work basket for their heavy lift operations worldwide. They required a work
basket with the ability to mitigate the risks I described earlier in the interview and, in particular, they required a work basket with the ability to self-right and float. The Reflex Marine team worked closely with Seaway 7 on development, engineering and testing of STORM-work and they are now using it in their global operations.
Oil and Gas Australasia: You spent 25 years designing and engineering exclusively crew transfer carriers. While the work basket is in a similar category, it is not quite the same. You explained this step beyond crew transfer baskets from your supporting clients and their operations perspective. Were there other reasons? The changes in the market we are all witnessing or anything else?
Alun Jones: Yes, there were other reasons and very much to do with the changes in the market. I also appreciate it is always interesting for managers and professionals to learn about other companies’ perspectives, decision-making processes and the rationale behind it.
After the last major global oil price crisis back in 2015 Reflex Marine made a conscious strategic decision to expand its product portfolio but also to expand its market coverage. That said we did want to stay focussed on the offshore markets because we felt that we had gained a lot of knowledge and experience in the sector since the company was founded in 1992. We believed that our experience and knowledge could be helpful to our clients and would add value to their operations. We also understood we had to adapt. We looked at the wider offshore universe trying to understand the other major industries beside oil and gas offshore. We did extensive in-house research and analysis to see how best we could contribute to these other industries and the companies operating in them.
Oil and Gas Australasia: What are the benefits of STORM-WORK over other work baskets?
Alun Jones: The main benefits I would highlight here are the self-righting and floating capabilities in the event of immersion, whilst also creating a safe space for personnel to await rescue. STORM-WORK’s flotation (buoyancy) panels double as side (lateral) impact protection. The outer panels and floatation minimise anti-snagging risks, this is achieved through contoured buoyancy panels, top and bottom, stepped side panels, folded top edges and protected shackle and lifting points. The lifting configuration is made of four anchor points which stabilise the carrier and reduces the risk of falling. Integrity of equipment is also vital aspect in the design of STORM-WORK, easy-to-access and visible critical components, allowing for ease of inspection and maintenance. This design, combined with the weld-free structure, limits the components required in the critical path. Personnel protection from when they are carrying out their duties within the carrier has also been taken into consideration. The offset space between the panels and the personnel is known as the “safe working zone” designed to mitigate crushing and trapping injuries. Overhead protection has also been incorporated and thoroughly tested to ensure competency. Finally, our products have always been ahead of the market in terms of environmental sustainability and STORM-WORK is no different. We are continuously looking into which materials to use when engineering our products.
Oil and Gas Australasia: How did you test and verify all the features of STORM-WORK?
Alun Jones: STORM-WORK has been designed with the client in mind. Through the design process we created a highly-engineered product which ensures worker’s safety. STORM-WORK is really the only work-basket in the world to go through the most rigorous testing and verification programme. Anti-snagging, crane speeds, lateral impact and the impact on the human body were among the criteria assessed. Immersion testing was carried out to ensure the carrier would float and self-right in all load conditions. During the development of our FROG and FROG-XT range Reflex Marine adopted methodologies similar to those used to evaluate the safety performance of motor vehicles. We used those same methodologies to test STORM-WORK and this rigorous testing and verification program confirmed that the objectives had been met. Together with the in-house testing I’ve just mentioned we also conducted offshore trials with Seaway Heavy Lifting. Their feedback allowed us to formulate operational procedures and safety guidelines.
Oil and Gas Australasia: How do you see the future developments for STORM-WORK?
Alun Jones: To emphasise some of the points I’ve made so far – I am mainly referring here to collaboration and customisation – we, at Reflex Marine, do recognise that sometimes the best way to support a clients’ operation is to be as flexible as possible. Sometimes this means customising an existing product. We have done this with STORM-WORK shortly after our collaboration with SHL and product going into standard production. ConocoPhillips approached us regarding their operations offshore Australia where they required a larger work basket with the same safety features. This meant adjusting the design of STORM-WORK and reengineering some of the components. We managed to turn this
project around in a very short period of time and supply the product, with the requested changes, within the agreed timeline, ending up with a satisfied client, a sense that we added value to their operations and a great case study that we could analyse and learn from internally. I feel this could very well be the future of further developments for STORM-WORK – on one hand we will have off-the-shelf products that most clients will be happy with but, because of our experience with Conoco Phillips, we know that we will be able to deliver a customised version of STORM-WORK in the shortest time. In the market where project times are shorter and shorter, and cost pressure continues and we see this flexibility as a clear advantage.
Oil and Gas Australasia: You are currently focused on launching two new products on the market, STORM-WORK and STORM-Pro, is that right? What is your view of the current offshore market?
Alun Jones: Yes, that is correct, I am currently focused on launching our work basket STORM-WORK but also our lightweight cargo container STORM-Pro. I am confident that both products will find their way to companies operating offshore and quickly establish themselves in relevant markets. Never in the past did the wider offshore industry have so many sectors with so many projects happening at the same time and with overlap between the different market sectors and different geographical regions. Seeing the tremendous amount of knowledge transfer happening every day across the board is both inspiring
and a driving force for all of us. We will continue to learn about all potential markets offshore, and we will continue to collaborate, both with our clients and with industry bodies. We will also continue to take into account geopolitical and macro-economic variables that impact offshore markets and we will continue to adapt in our growth. We are currently focused on LNG and we are more and more focussed on new sources of energy, like offshore wind. We have been collaborating with the decommissioning side of the O&G industry for years now and we will continue to do that. We are also talking to ports and terminals, fishing factories and offshore civil engineering companies, to navies
and coastguards globally while making sure that we never forget our (still) core market - offshore oil and gas, including deep-water production operations.
For more information on the STORM-WORK, please contact us on +44 (0) 1872 321155 or email email@example.com