This publication is the beginning of a series focused on the topic of on-site support services typically offered for the marine industry. However, this particular text is just an introduction to the subject. I will pay attention to the specifics of the projects and typical challenges they present. It will be based mostly on my own experience and knowledge acquired while running Denkho and before.
First, it is essential to clearly define the characteristics of the projects we will be talking about. Important to note, this is not renting groups of workers to customers or providing long-term assistance at client’s location. The scope of work is limited to services provided by the subcontractor team as an independent unit.
‘Mobilisation’ is a term used for projects to which this article relates. Mobilisations are characterised by:
– short-duration – projects, both for engineering and fabrication, usually not exceed a couple of weeks or even days,
– a short period of preparation time for the project – ordering such services is generally caused by an urgent event, where the call for prompt service execution defines short deadlines,
– completion of the project in the location indicated by the client – specifications of projects don’t allow to carry it out by the subcontractor in its facility.
The features mentioned above are essential for mobilisation contracts. It doesn’t mean, however, that a project lasting more than half a year or so can’t be treated as ‘mobilisation’. Limiting the above features in specific numbers would be difficult or even impossible. The term ‘mobilisation’ therefore remains figurative, and its use depends only on the case review. Still, it can be said with certainty that this type of work requires services similar in form to any other emergency services.
Types of projects
Let us first highlight what kinds of projects fit into the range of ‘mobilisation’ term.
– Unexpected repairs which, if not carried out, may result in ship’s sailing restrictions or being grounded in the port. Repairs after collisions are an excellent illustration here.
– Preparation for sea services. A good example is the service equipment installation for submarine cable sea services.
– Ship fitting for other purposes with a short end date, such as the installation of seafastenings for heavy transport.
– Demobilisation, i.e. disassembling previously installed equipment after the vessel has carried out its goals.
And the extra one, not exactly matching the ‘mobilisation’ features but still close enough to:
– Equipping ships with law required systems such as BWTS (Ballast Water Treatment System) – considered as ‘mobilisation’ type project due to short docking time which inflicts in brief project preparation and execution time.
Mobilisations often produce a high number of challenges during the project. It usually depends on project preparation and planning level.
One should always keep in mind conditions created by water, weather or the project itself. Phenomena and characteristics such as wave height, wind strength or even operational depth are significant limitations here. These restrictions must be taken into account in the process of engineering foundations, seafastenings and equipment itself together with the ship’s construction.
When it comes to a common ship rental for sea services, there is quite a possibility that the knowledge about the vessel (or rather the lack of) will create a very demanding engineering environment. No access to full ship documentation and no proper history of its refurbishments – that’s what engineers struggle with regularly.
Some of the examples of mobilisation contracts Denkho has participated can be found in our references or below:
Mobilisations are demanding projects. The most meaningful responsibility is in project management. The manager is responsible for coordinating fabrication and installation works, engineering, and entire logistics related to the plan. Above that is participating in daily project meetings and ongoing consulting with other contract teams, including classification societies and ship’s crew.
The creation of a well-planned and coordinated logistics plan for the project is crucial. Subjects such as sending employees and equipment to another country and organising accommodation and transport in the workplace are the foundation and not limited to the beginning of the project. Following, it is necessary to determine the inflow of materials and additional external services, such as adequate lifting according to the project plans and work specifications, to ensure continuity of works.
Being responsible for so much, the manager is not able to engage in everyday engineering tasks. Design, engineering, complicated measurements – all that must be delegated to support engineers so they can follow all the engineering for on-site planned tasks. Fortunately, ost of the design and engineering work can be done stationary, based on regular contact between the manager and the subcontractor’s design office. In this case, most of the measurements are already taken in the ship by mobilisation staff. The data is forwarded to the design office, where engineers make use of it.
In some cases, engineering support at the place of mobilisation is unavoidable. Most often, it is correlated with the discrepancies between the theoretical situation on the ship (the one based on the available documentation of the boat) and the actual situation.
At the same time, these variances require specialised knowledge and skills for measurements of complicated shapes.
It is quite usual to encounter a pipe or other structure, in a place where, according to the documentation, it should not happen. This kind of situations forces sudden changes of assumptions for designed and sometimes also already fabricated structures, which involves updating documentation and refabricate structures.
Production support (fabrication + installation)
The circumstances mentioned above also has a massive impact on the calendar of planned manufacturing. The immediate reconstruction of the structure related to the occurrence of inaccuracies is labour-intensive, expensive and can harm facing already tight deadlines.
Therefore, it is essential to check the base construction before starting the project and compare it with available documentation. Such additional work done before the start of design works can save a lot of time and avoid problems during mobilisation. This extra cost is necessary for the mobilisation services free of difficulties and delays.
Inspections have another significant impact on project preparation. Thanks to them, it is possible to estimate the necessary material and production tools. And the tools are essential in mobilisations on-site.
Transporting own tools and equipment from point A to point B for long distances may be impossible for some projects due to their deadlines. Typically, the tools are sent by land or sea before starting works, to be available at the start of the project at its location. However, when the project takes place on another continent, it is not easy. In such cases, tools and equipment are rented at the situation, as well as the necessary lifting equipment. This significantly increases costs of the project, but in the context of dates and logistics, is much more beneficial than any transport, and often the only possibility.
Employees and safety on-site
Mobilisations require prompt action and an appropriate number of workers, tailored to the requirements of the project. Planning the transport of employees to the project site, accommodation for everyone and daily logistics is challenging. Especially in projects where the number of required employees is high, this may turn out to be complicated. In such case employees must be divided into smaller groups adapted to conditions of flights, accommodation and transport restrictions.
All that must always be associated with ensuring full safety of employees and the satisfying comfort of travelling. Full kit of personal safety means (PPE) while working on the project should always meet the requirements of local law and obligations of the country in which employees are hired. Representatives’ familiarity is also developed each time with local regulations on work safety – initially at training sessions conducted internally by a subcontractor company, or later, already at the location of the project, by a unit appointed for this.
Mobilisation and customer support in the project can be linked with many challenges related to almost every particular aspect of the project. Insight to these topics will be continued in further articles.