Certified to competeNovember 4, 2021
Bob Millikin, managing director of Aquatec Marine and Diving Services, talks to The Energy Year about the significance of certification for diving services and the company’s expansion plans. Aquatec Marine and Diving Services is an indigenous company that provides diving services to Ghana’s marine sector and energy industry.
How important are certifications for diving companies in Ghana?
The Petroleum Commission should enforce the existing local content law and certifications should be looked at with more importance. If they focused on certifications, some diving companies would not be able to provide their services.
Our diving equipment is under full IMCA [International Marine Contractors Association] specs and at present Aquatec is recognised by Lloyd’s, DNV GL and ABS. Other companies in Ghana have good equipment but do not have qualifications. When it comes to certifications and our 30 years’ experience, we have no competitors in Ghana.
Passing the ISO certification was a huge financial and logistical hurdle for the team. We were fortunate to get it. It shows the direction that the company wants to go when it comes to standards and gives our clients and stakeholders confidence. The paperwork is relentless. We just had our first-year appraisal, and we are keeping up on it.
Is there sufficient availability of a skilled workforce to provide diving services?
Currently, we must import people. Our goal is to get six IMCA-certified male divers in the next couple of years and four IMCA-certified female divers in the next five years. We are looking to train Ghanaians. We are about to send one of our employees to Middleborough; he will be the first Ghanaian to pass through training with a 34U CSWIP Engineering course in Abingdon, in the north of England.
Our permanent staff is close to 40. For the complex jobs we do, the company uses Nigerian or UK expats as divers until we can build up the dive team with locals. Nigerians have an excellent work ethic and are very loyal. The expats are good; we have tight teams with good supervisors.
You choose people that you know.
What are the company’s current projects?
During 2021, we did underwater inspections in lieu of dry docking on the Kwame Nkrumah and [John Evans] Atta Mills FPSOs. These were postponed until Q1 2022, mainly because of the weather. We are now preparing to work on the John Agyekum Kufuor FPSO.
In March 2021, we were successful with a contract assisting the laying of the live LNG line across the mouth of the Tema harbour for TechnipFMC.
Although we mainly work with FPSOs, our client Maersk Drilling has a drillship that is back in Ghanaian waters. They were happy with the work we provided for them, and they wanted to bring one of their drillships in Equatorial Guinea back to Ghana for its maintenance period every two years. This says a lot about what our clients think of us. Our value proposition is to deliver end-to-end services for customers from underwater surveys and hull cleaning to emergency inspections and in-water repairs.
What projects are you targeting in the future?
Our strategy is to reinvest our earnings into the business. This is how we accomplished our 15-year goal of opening an office in Takoradi. It is a building within the port. With new expansions and more exploration and production, we expect to see more work on supply boats as there will be more hardware offshore. We are hoping to pick up some inshore work. We would like to perform underwater tanker cleaning.
Its main challenge is to own a good brush cart system capable of cleaning a 300-metre tanker in three to four days, because the investment is quite high. We do own a brush cart system good for smaller vessels, but it needs to be upgraded.
Aside from oil-related business, there is work on Lake Volta, where trees need to be harvested from the bottom of the lake. However, our prices are too high to do that. We could tender the company that owns the operation on a profit-share basis instead of a flat rate. That would work very well for both companies. It is incredibly dangerous work.
Does the company have plans to expand into other markets in the region?
In terms of regional expansion, we have had a couple of calls to do work in Liberia and Senegal. The ideal situation would be to have a little presence in each of these countries with some equipment that we can periodically check on in accordance with our IMCA planned maintenance system. We would need a reputable agent in these countries to handle shipping and logistics. We could have a lockup with equipment and perform in-house inspections periodically. With that, we can build work in these countries.