Ampelmann’s gangway systems break new ground in Africa
Manager Sales & Business Development for Africa
For some years now, Damen and offshore services provider Ampelmann have been working together on developing the ideal synthesis of vessel and offshore access system for a range of clients around the world. Nowhere has it been more challenging and yet rewarding, with a steep learning curve delivering benefits for all, than their cooperation in the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa.
David Inman, Ampelmann’s manager sales & business development for Africa, takes up the story. “As of summer 2019, we have two of our L-type motion compensation offshore access systems installed on two Damen Fast Crew Suppliers (FCS) 5009. A larger A-type system is fitted on a third vessel, all operating offshore Nigeria. We also have a fourth system operational in the Côte d’Ivoire. All these are successfully delivering offshore access services. These four systems are providing safe and efficient access covering project scopes from in-field crew transfer to major maintenance campaigns.”
A challenging environment
“Building confidence in the systems has been a lengthy but rewarding process,” continues David. “The workers had grown accustomed to long-standing but potentially hazardous transfer techniques such as frog baskets and swing ropes. Making the step change to something new and unfamiliar was always going to be a challenge and so building confidence in the gangway systems was a primary focus.”
Walk to work solutions are about delivering a service and not simply a good product. To do this you need three key elements; a good vessel, a proven gangway system and most importantly a service-orientated company to deliver the solution to the client.
“This last component is crucial as many vessel owners see these three items as separate “pillars” and not as a single solution. This is where Clarksons Platou came in. Their understanding and knowledge of the Nigerian market proved of great value. They brought the three components around the same table and this is where we met our launch customer.”
“We have been very fortunate with our client. Our Partners at L.A.T.C. Marine have been very supportive throughout and recognised the importance of vessel and gangway operating as a single system. Mobilising a gangway system for the first time in an environment a long way from all the local support resources we have available when doing it on the North Sea is very different. However, having a strong network within Damen offering help and advice has been a big help, along with L.A.T.C. Marine trusting us to make it work. This has allowed us to learn by experience.” Since that first trial in March 2018, the mobilisation time has more than halved and L.A.T.C. Marine has renewed the short-term contract four times – the ultimate vote of confidence.
The Damen FCS 5009 vessels with their Ampelmann L-type systems have become the model vessels in the region and opened the door for L.A.T.C. Marine to elevate the conversation with their client ExxonMobil regarding the scope and sophistication of services that they can offer them. Generating credibility by introducing innovation to the region has created a win-win result with ExxonMobil/MPN extending its collaboration with L.A.T.C. Marine and Ampelmann for innovative solutions.
Ampelmann’s business model also ensures close and continuous contact with its clients. 80% of its business is based on full-service rental contracts, with just 20% outright sales. The company’s rental model allows for plug-and-play operations supported by top class service that ensures continuous optimisation and the guaranteed operability that the end users want. That works just fine for L.A.T.C. Marine.
“With Nigeria’s operations becoming business as usual, we are looking at opportunities around the African continent as other countries look to take advantage of their offshore resources,” continues David. “New world-class oil & gas plays are being discovered, developed and put into production. The majority of these projects will involve the deployment of large FPSOs, which have the advantage of being completely new developments. This allows them to start their planning without the encumbrance of legacy practices and service providers with ageing equipment. It also makes them open to using innovative technology to minimise operating costs and boost safety.”
“What we are providing is a new way of working, offering solutions in cooperation with partners such as Damen, and we know that we must stay alert and keep evolving in order to stay ahead. Our relationship with Damen works particularly well. We share the same Dutch entrepreneurial, can-do attitude, and we both aim to drive our markets rather than respond to them, on occasions exploring opportunities together. Damen’s decision to start building its first FCS 7011 without a buyer is a classic example of it being confident enough based on detailed research and consultation to start building a high-value product and we are happy to be working with them in developing a new, electrified system to match the vessel’s capabilities. It is lighter and uses less power than our A-type but with similar capabilities.”
“This approach is working well in Africa,” continues David, “where we can see that the adoption of Walk to Work is growing. We recognise that it is a niche, but it is a niche with the potential for millions of transfers each year. With the right vessels, it could expand even further. We are looking for long-term, sustainable growth with the emphasis always on safety and focusing on the right clients in the right places.”
“We feel that our success in Nigeria has been an important first stage. We have effectively ‘derisked’ the operational environment in West Africa and word is spreading through the industry in the region that Walk to Work is a safe, efficient and cost-effective alternative to traditional methods of offshore access. At Ampelmann, we also feel more confident about exploring new markets and being able to deliver, no matter where the opportunity arises. There is still a long way to go, though. Even in the international oil majors, there are many people who remain unaware of Walk to Work and its many advantages. However, the offshore oil & gas sector around Africa is at an exciting and vibrant stage of its development and this is a great time to be bringing new solutions to the market.”
“We’re looking ahead to a bright future in Africa,” concludes David. “The Damen FCS 5009 and Ampelmann L-type are working beautifully together, and everything is telling us that we are moving in the right direction. Before too long, we expect to have a gangway system available in Nigeria for spot work, such is the interest we are seeing from operators. We have overcome many challenges and hurdles by patiently building trust and L.A.T.C. Marine has allowed us to learn through experience. The next few years will, we know, bring more success for ourselves and our clients.”