In its earliest incarnation KD Marine was established in Aberdeen in the early 1960s by a Canadian company looking to capitalise on the booming North Sea oil industry.
The company was then bought over and disappeared from the market, until 1989 when former employee, and current managing director, Hamish Petersen purchased the rights to the KD Marine name. Initially intended to just be a memento of his time there, Hamish soon found that requests for work began to creep in, and as such KD Marine has reaffirmed itself as a leading specialist in underwater contractor services for the offshore oil and gas industry.
The company’s primary service is surface diving, but it has also become well known as a capable partner in executing more complex projects and finding solutions to things that were perhaps not thought possible. It is this desire to develop different working methods and more efficient operations that led to the creation of KD Marine’s widely admired daughter craft. “In terms of the original base design they were lifeboats, but Hamish sat down with a naval architect and shipbuilding company to develop these boats specifically for diving off of,” explains business development manager Mark Beadie.
“Because lifeboats move constantly in the water they can be thrown about when sitting still, this is why they adapted the hull and other parts to make the boats more stable in the sea and less susceptible to the differing wave conditions. We were the first company in the UK, and indeed Europe, to have from-scratch custom designed daughter craft. A lot of other companies purchased older boats and tried to re-fit them, but as far as we understand that approach has never managed to produce anything like our vessels.”
Another major part of KD Marine’s innovative history is its over-the-side platform, which was designed by the company to leverage space and greater efficiency on offshore projects. Essentially an A-frame design, the over-the-side platform attaches to the side of a rig, or FPSO and can then be dived from. This enables KD Marine to use less deck space on these installations, and to carry out diving operations in and around certain parts of the structure that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
“The majority of work that comes to us is based around inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM), or one-off projects where we can offer consultancy and management services. We recognise that our clients may not be well versed in diving operations, but with a team that has over 35 years of experience in this field, we are able to assist with a project as a whole and develop a way of delivering the necessary outcomes,” describes Mark.
It was this type of thinking that KD Marine employed on its latest project for Marathon Oil at its East Brae platform. Essentially an inspection project for a number of the central risers directly underneath the rig, KD Marine’s daughter craft offered a much more efficient solution than deploying divers from the side of the platform. Using the boats meant that KD Marine had the freedom of movement to reach all of the different points with minimal effort. This flexibility was especially important as Marathon stipulated that no small boat diving operations could take place during darkness hours.
Just a few weeks earlier the company also completed a seven-figure contract for Wood Group PSN on its Hummingbird Spirit FPSO vessel in the North Sea. The scope of the contract focused on repairs to the vessel’s fairleads, and although operationally the system supplied by KD Marine was not unique it did make use of a third launch and recovery system (LARS), enabling the company to dive outside of its normal umbilical extension parameters. The completion of this project does however represent a milestone as the first time Wood Group has ever used an installation based surface diving system to carry out subsea repair work on the FPSO.
Equally notable is that for this project, and another high profile contract for Bluewater, KD Marine has worked with the companies to amend their safety case to allow for diving operations to be completed in their offshore installations. This is the first time these operators have had to do this, and KD Marine was able to guide them through the process. “We have so many years of experience in surface diving operations that we really want companies to use our knowledge and expertise, as opposed to hiring us for our equipment and divers. By being involved in the whole process we are able to come up with a solution for completing a project more efficiently, or easily than thought before, whilst maintaining all the health and safety requirements,” enthuses Mark.
“We follow all the required safety procedures for completing diving projects, and have a dedicated health, safety, quality and environment (HSQE) co-ordinator who is responsible for maintaining our HSQE records and ensuring that we are compliant as a diving contractor. Our safety management systems, and health and safety processes all either meet, or exceed, what is expected within the UK, and we then look at how these fit into different country-specific requirements. We’re also concentrating a lot on working with FPAL, which essentially evaluates all of our HSEQ systems, which means that this removes the need for larger operators to carry out their own audit as they recognise the standard. This will allow us to gain entry into certain places that we wouldn’t be able to get into without it,” he adds.
This is an important consideration, because whilst the majority of KD Marine’s work comes from the North Sea, the business has also operated in Norway, Holland, and Greenland. Likewise, KD Marine has seen new enquiries come in from Libya and Brazil, where interested parties are keen on contracting the two daughter craft for a minimum of a year, with options to extend that for a three to five year period.
As Mark outlines KD Marine’s desire to cement longer-term service contracts in the future, interest such as from Brazil could prove to be a major boost for the company’s aspirations: “At the moment we are completing a framework agreement with Marathon Oil that will see us provide all surface diving work for them over the next few years. This sets the precedent for the type of contracts we want to achieve going forward so that we can work to provide companies with services all year round whenever they need them, as opposed to just coming to us with one-off projects. This would enable us to plan our resources more effectively, such as hiring the mother ships we launch our daughter craft from and then going from area to area to deliver the work, as well as to expand so we can continue to take on the more challenging projects clients come to us with.”
Services: Surface diving