Briggs MarineChanging with the times
marine services director
Based on the opposite side of the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh, the family-owned company of Briggs Marine and Environmental Services has for nearly fifty years delivered an ever-widening range of marine services to customers initially in Scotland and later all over the UK and overseas.
It all began with marine civil engineering projects, but over the years has spread out to include services from third-party vessel management and submarine cable installation and repair projects to renewable energy operations and maintenance, emergency response and salvage. This diversity is quite deliberate and designed to provide a degree of protection against the adverse winds that, as experience has taught the company’s owners and their management team, can affect different sectors in the maritime industry at different times.
Today the Briggs fleet totals over fifty vessels both owned and third-party craft managed by the company. These range from survey and pilot boats, barges and pontoons to a range of workboats. The Briggs flagship is the 61-metre, anchor handling vessel Kingdom of Fife, designed and built by Damen and delivered in 2008. Also ordered at that time was the Damen Multi Cat 2612 Forth Jouster. Forth Jouster was in fact Briggs’ third Damen Multi Cat. In line with their long term contract model, Kingdom of Fife was ordered to support a 15-year, £100m contract with government contractor Serco to provide support for over 350 moorings, navigation buoys and targets for the UK’s Royal Navy around the UK coast as well as in Cyprus, Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands. Eight years later in 2016, Briggs Marine took delivery of a further Damen Multi Cat 2712, named the Forth Warrior, for duties including dive support, anchor handling, dredging assistance and vessel support. This took Briggs’ Multicat fleet (not all from Damen) to eight vessels.
As well as being active in supporting the busy offshore and coastal energy sector, both hydrocarbons and renewables, Briggs Marine has developed a strong reputation in the installation and maintenance of subsea cables. “These involve complicated technical solutions, and with their shallow draughts and dynamic positioning (DP) capability our Multi Cats play an important role in serving this sector, particularly with many of our projects taking place in shallow water,” says Marine Services director Iain Ross.
Other areas into which the company has moved in recent years include port services and other marine-specific outsourcing. Port services covers a wide range of activities including oil terminal operation and management, supporting pilotage operations, undertaking marine surveys, maintaining navigation and mooring buoys and providing oil spill response services at ports such as Liverpool.
“Outsourcing is another area which we have targeted for growth,” continues Iain. “In 2013 we won a contract with Transport for London (TfL) to manage and operate the Woolwich ferry service which carries around 20,000 cars and 50,000 passengers across the River Thames each week.
We have just replaced the three original ferries with two, low-emission, new vessels utilising hybrid propulsion to provide what we believe to be the cleanest environmental performance of any diesel-driven vessel in the sector.
“We have also been responsible for the successful delivery of organisational transformation of the operating entity, including managing an ongoing process of very significant change for our staff. We see more opportunities in this sector to apply our expertise to assist commercial organisations and government agencies with maritime functions that are outside their core competence.”
Anchor Handling Vessel Kingdom Of Fife
It is by identifying opportunities of these types and leveraging its years of experience that Briggs Marine has maintained its active policy of diversification and doubled in size in the past ten years, and the momentum continues.
Damen fits in well in with our business model,
“Like us they excel in developing technical solutions and view collaboration as vital for success. Recently we have been looking together at providing modern dredging services to the UK’s rather traditional dredging sector and Damen’s support has been very helpful. We also see our 15-year Serco/MoD contract coming up to rebid, and Damen will be part of the discussion regarding the next generation of vessels that we will be putting forward.
The maritime industry does tend to be conservative, but we see our future in supporting our clients as they explore the new processes and technologies that are only beginning to provide practical solutions now.
“Our engineers are highly capable and have valuable experience from projects like the new hybrid Woolwich ferries and our recently-delivered pilot boats in Liverpool, which have innovative hulls that maximise fuel economy. Minimising emissions to air is rightly becoming ever more important and we continue to apply our knowledge in this area to tugs and other workboats and so build a reputation as a leader in the field. The key, of course, is getting the message across to port authorities and other harbour operators that the benefits outweigh the inevitable additional costs.
It’ll take a while, but we know that Damen will be there to support us when we need it.