For ship owners and charterers, keeping their vessels at sea, working, and earning their keep is essential to their business. Returning an offshore support vessel to its home base for routine maintenance for example, is not practical in terms of a ship’s revenue earning potential. As a world-leading company at the forefront of designing and equipping such vessels, Rolls-Royce is well aware of the importance of ensuring these highly sophisticated, high-value assets, maximise their earning potential for their owners.
And what’s true for an offshore support vessel is equally true for a cruise ship, a fishing vessel or a ferry – if they are not at sea then they cannot be earning revenue. Maintenance is a fact of life for any ship and it must be carried out, but if it can be done quickly and close to where the vessel is operating, then downtime is minimised.
Having servicing facilities, spare parts and engineering expertise on-hand, all over the world, is becoming an increasingly essential part of modern maritime operations. Rolls-Royce now has a network of service centres in 28 countries around the world, serving the world’s major ports, shipping lanes and remote bases in support of offshore oil and gas exploration.
The company is also being increasingly innovative in its approach to providing enhanced customer service support. For instance, recently patenting a new method for removing a tunnel thruster under water. This new method of ‘underwater intervention’ avoids the need for dry-docking, shortening the traditional turnaround time by 50 per cent for such a repair.
Mikael Norin, President Marine Services said: ‘Customers want peace of mind. They want back-up and through-life support for the products they buy. They also want to know they can get the engineering expertise they need, wherever their vessel may be operating. As a global player in the industry we are growing marine service activities to mirror the growth of global shipping.
‘Getting the location right, makes all the difference. We look at the main maritime clusters, look at potential future growth markets, and listen to our customers. Only then do we press ahead and establish our facilities.
‘We’ve invested in modern, well equipped service centres to respond to the needs of our customers but we also offer them strategic advice on getting the best out of their vessels through improved, more efficient propulsion solutions and systematic maintenance planning.’
Contribution Each of the Rolls-Royce service centres can support a diverse spread of customers and additionally many have a specific focus based on the nature of the local maritime industry. For example, Rotterdam is a key European merchant port so the emphasis is with these customers, Seattle has a prime focus on fishing vessels in North America, while in Norway, vessels serving the deepwater oil and gas offshore industry in the North Sea account for the bulk of the customers.
Additions One of the recent additions to the Rolls-Royce network is the Galveston service centre located 60 miles south of Houston on the Texas Gulf Coast, part of a growing Rolls-Royce presence serving the offshore industry in the Americas.
A move from shallow to deepwater drilling over the past decade, has allowed for a significant growth of Rolls-Royce marine technology in the region; from massive azimuthing propulsion units used to keep deepwater drilling rigs on station, to vessel propulsion, control systems, anchor and cargo handling systems, complete vessel designs and shipbuilding services.
Bill Malacrida, Vice President Services – North America, for Rolls-Royce, explains: ‘For nearly 30 years we’ve developed the ships suited to the harshest of ‘mission critical’ duties associated with deep-sea offshore. As the hunt for energy resources moves into more challenging environments, our customers are now using these ships and their expertise in the Gulf of Mexico, and off the coast of Brazil.’
While Rolls-Royce has the largest marine product portfolio, and offers integrated system packages to ship owners, the nature of the marine market means that many vessels carry equipment from a number of manufacturers. However, more and more customers are seeking to deal with one responsible, reliable service provider and Rolls-Royce is well placed to offer this service.
Bill says: ‘In order to provide this level of value, we also have to be able to work on non-Rolls-Royce equipment, and have already established a skilled team of engineers trained to work on a range of diesel engines and propulsion equipment. Providing engine maintenance gives us a platform to grow our business, it opens up opportunities to retrofit with Rolls-Royce equipment and of course, provide through-life support.’
Investment by Rolls-Royce in the US marine business continues at a pace: ‘In addition to several new service facilities being planned, we’re working on the development of a customer training facility in the US – following on from similar such facilities in Norway and Singapore,’ adds Bill.
The growth in demand globally for marine services saw Rolls-Royce open six new facilities last year across North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East. The company has just started work on a new service centre in Poland to serve the important Baltic region and will have a new service centre opening soon in Namibia, on the west coast of Africa.
For Rolls-Royce, which offers integrated marine product systems for customers, combining that activity with an integrated service solution is a logical progression. Such an approach is good for growing customer partnerships and increasing the value of the overall relationship.