McLachlan Marine Services

Ship shape

Originally known as Castle Charter Marine Services, Aberdeen-based McLachlan Marine Services was acquired four years ago by owner and managing director Ruari McLachlan, who has used his long-term experience of the maritime industry to diversify the business into three segments: workboat and survey boat services, crew transfers and maritime training.

Discussing the company’s development, Ruari begins: “When our boat trips and fishing charters were affected by the recession I visited some of my colleagues from my previous activities in subsea electronics to find out where we could potentially support this market.

“Three years ago we had two commercial customers in this area of the business and today we have over 40. We have continued to grow to meet customer demands and launched a new workboat, the Blyth 33 catamaran True North, in early 2014.

“We continuously adapt to the needs of the market and have invested almost one million pounds on boats over the last year or so. This has been a huge undertaking and partly stems from our contract with Kongsberg Maritime, which was signed in March 2014 and follows our regular work with the survey positioning equipment manufacturer. True North has been kitted out with approximately £500,000 worth of Kongsberg’s equipment and was adapted to suit our client’s needs. The vessel now enables them to train offshore surveyors and survey engineers on their acoustic positioning systems. As part of this 80-day charter contract we will be providing Kongsberg with a comprehensive range of services, from sea trials for AUVs to training for their customers.”

True North’s features include a 700 x 700 moon pool for the deployment of pole mounted equipment through the deck, a large wheel house with surveyor’s desk and workbench and twin 17-inch monitors. Ruari said: “True North is a state-of-the-art catamaran with a sophisticated moon pool system that is unique in Scotland. This system allows her to deploy equipment and carry out tests and sea trials.”

Able to accommodate a maximum of 11 delegates, in addition to an instructor and two boat crew, True North will enable Kongsberg to introduce practical on-water training every two weeks between March and December alongside the courses already offered at its training centre in Westhill, Aberdeen.

Based at Stonehaven, just 18 miles from Scotland’s booming oil and gas hub, Ruari noticed an opportunity to diversify his company further and set up a safe, reliable and cost effective crew and cargo transfer service company in Aberdeen harbour in 2013.

“We began offering crew transfers under the name Aberdeen Crew Transfers just over a year ago and acquired a purpose-built boat for ship-to-ship transfers. The harbour is currently going through an expansion phase because there is not enough space to accommodate all of the boats and for customers who require our services we are available 24/7, all year round.”

Wholly-owned by McLachlan Marine Services, Aberdeen Crew Transfers offers personnel and cargo transfers from the 12 x 6 metre catamaran Ocean Predator, which boasts fast turnaround capability and a safe, stable platform even in the most challenging weather conditions.

A major customer of McLachlan Marine Services is GAC, which enjoys a long-term partnership with the dynamic firm. Ruari commented: “We are the number one approved supplier of crew transfer and ship services for GAC and this achievement follows a whole week of their agents reviewing our standards and operations, which we passed with flying colours.”

Following the high demand for crew transfer services, Ruari and coxswain Paul Haynes have expanded the organisation’s services further through the development of a maritime training course. Viewed as a major achievement by the firm, McLachlan Marine Services has set a new industry standard that didn’t previously exist. Ruari said: “Most employees at McLachlan Marine Services have RNLI experience and share the same passion for safety. This makes us different from the rest because we attract guys that like to get things right. Paul not only works for us but also has his own business, Haynes Marine, which is a renowned defence industry maritime training provider. The two of us joined forces to set up a venture for crew transfer training on True North.

“This is a big deal for us because we feel there are many crew transfer boats with different capabilities all over the world and we hear a lot of negative information within the industry as to how companies transfer personnel or crew.

“Over the past two months we have put 60 people through our course for passenger transfer at sea safety training and there is further demand from companies wanting to know how to make transfers safe.”

Involved with boats since the age of 12 and having acquired his first commercial vessel at 25, Ruari has pushed his company past economic challenges in the shipping industry through adaptability and a keen eye for opportunities.

Now a successful and diversifying company, the next step for McLachlan Marine Services is a more integrated service offering what Ruari calls “A one-stop-shop for our customers.”

He said: “We are now looking into how we can provide better support to our customers on the transportation side of the business. There are outline plans to develop a wheeled logistics division and come on to the land side of the business in and around Aberdeen harbour. If there are opportunities we can progress with then we will.”

McLachlan Marine Services
Services: Provides survey operation to subsea electronic firms and premier crew transfer services