Gareloch Support Services

Chartered expansion

Founded in 1989 as a contractor to the local submarine base in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, Gareloch Support Services (GSS) has spent the last 20 years adding greatly to its facilities and establishing strong relationships with the Royal Navy.

Moreover, in recent years the company has moved away from a predominantly military focus and is now active in a number of markets with marine civil engineering being a specialism. Whilst partnerships are maintained with the Royal Navy for the supply of quality marine plant services, its nine wholly owned workboats and further five that it manages also serve port-to-harbour construction, as well as supporting wind farm installation. The move into civil engineering services has been highly lucrative for GSS with the division headed up by an ex-director of a national civil engineering company and staffed by experienced and qualified engineers. Such capabilities have been vital in taking the business from purely boat charter operations to major engineering projects.

“We can name, not only the MoD, but companies such as SubOcean, E.ON, Serco, Amec Turner and QinetiQ among our regular clients,” John McMeeking, marketing manager of GSS explains. “Though based in Scotland, our influence is widespread with operations and vessels in operation in the south east of England, Wales, Denmark and Germany, while negotiations are currently taking place in Holland. We also maintain two boats permanently on the Clyde to support the local navy when required.”

In relation to its competitors, GSS is set apart by the sheer scale of experience it provides to the offshore industry and the complimentary activities surrounding it. Unlike many of its peers in the civil engineering field, the company is exclusively marine-based, offering an unrivalled depth of knowledge for marine constructions. Indeed, such is its expertise that many of its key clients view their experience with GSS as gaining a free consultancy service.

Currently the organisation’s offshore activities lie in the positioning of anchor patterns and hauling patterns for large barges, the moving of barges, crew exchange services to and from shore, and general marine support. In addition, the company has been making a move into the wind, tidal and wave energy sector, which has been identified as hugely important for its future. One of the latest projects for GSS was the installation of a new fuelling arm at OFD (oil fuel depot) Garelochhead that took 26 weeks to manufacture and a further four weeks to deliver in its entirety.

The overall project involved the installation of strengthening beams on the underside of the reinforced concrete deck between existing piles that had to be delivered by boat. The new loading arm itself also had to be delivered to site and installed using a crawler crane mounted on a floating barge as it was too large to utilise the existing jetty approach road, which is where GSS’ expertise came in. “We brought the loading arm over on a barge and offloaded it onto the oil jetty, where bolting it in place proved to be quite a complex issue. This was quite a typical project for us, but our most significant work of late involves the cable pushing work for the new Astute submarine jetty at MoD Faslane,” John explains.

The Faslane contract is due for imminent completion after 18 weeks of work and it involved GSS pulling a large set of cables from shore side out to the new astute jetty, anchoring them onto the jetty before taking them down to the seabed and attaching them to a seabed anchor. The project involved functioning in deep water up to 26 metres in depth and running the 150 mm diameter cables into the terminal onshore for operation. John outlines the challenges faced: “It was a difficult job due to the size of the cables and the confines in which we had to operate. Ordinarily we would employ a large cable-laying vessel to carry out this kind of work, but the proximity to the MoD base prevented it. Instead, we used smaller barges and vessels that also presented challenges in contending with a larger size of cable than they would usually hold. It was an awkward project, but also unique in demonstrating our capabilities as a solution provider. In addition, it gave us the opportunity to cement our relationship with AMEC and Morgan Est who undertook this contract as a joint venture.”

A constant interest in industry developments and technological innovation is at the core of the business, while investments are consistently being made into new vessels and capabilities for the fleet. In April 2010, the largest boat to join the fleet to date, the Aileen M, will be added to the company’s arsenal utilising an investment of five million euros. At 25.1 metres long with a beam of ten metres and a high capacity crane with a lifting capacity of 9000 kilograms at 16.3 metres, the vessel will be coded to work 150 miles offshore. The narrow foot print of its superstructure provides a large clear working deck that is fully equipped with a variety of winches and high deck gear that make it ideal for anchor handling and all types of offshore operations. This multi-role vessel will add greatly to GSS’ ability to function further from shore, at greater depths and in harsher conditions. The organisation also took delivery of the Maggie M in June 2008 and the Morag M in January 2009, both of which are multi-role workboats.

The marine industry has remained relatively insulated from the global economic crisis due to the long-term nature of projects and the positive relationships that are maintained throughout the market. As a result of this, GSS has experienced unprecedented success in recent years with turnover increasing from £2 million to £8 million in the past four years alone, following a change of management. John highlights his vision for the company: “We are looking into the fields of tidal and wave energy, as well as LNG terminals for future activities, and I envisage significant growth in both the boat charter and civil engineering sides of the business. Our strategy is to develop through totally organic means, ensuring we employ the right people for the job and that clients keep coming back time and again.”

Gareloch Support Services

Services: Vessel chartering and civil engineering services