Simon Hird from offshore service provider, i-Tech 7, is busy raising the company's profile in the APAC region — while building a team around him who love what they do.
Simon Hird's curriculum vitae is as impressive as it is long. Across four decades, he's been at the centre of the subsea oil and gas industry, working for (among others) UTEC Survey as business unit director responsible for managing activity in the Asia Pacific region. In February of this year, he joined i-Tech 7 —Subsea 7’s Life of Field business unit — as its Regional Director Asia Pacific.
“It's fitting that I'm doing this job,” muses Simon. “That's because in the mid-1980s I worked for diving company Wharton Williams which, after various iterations and mergers, effectively became Subsea 7. So after all of the companies I've worked for all around the world, I'm essentially back with the same company I joined in 1985! It's been a long career journey for me, and I'm proud that I've come full circle.”
While Subsea 7 takes care of design and construction in the subsea sector, i-Tech 7 provides clients worldwide with a full range of Inspection, Repair, Maintenance (IRM) and Life of Field services, and has access to over 175 ROVs and a fleet of Remotely Operated Vehicle Support Vessels (ROVSVs) and Diving Support Vessels (DSVs). Simon — who's based in i-Tech 7’s office in a suburb of Perth, Australia — is charged with strengthening the company's operations and presence in the Asia Pacific region.
“Ours is a long-established business, but it doesn't yet have the developed footprint in APAC that it does elsewhere in the world,” he admits. “We're the number one or number two inspection, repair and maintenance services company in in every major offshore oil and gas province on the planet. Everywhere, that is, except APAC, where i-Tech 7 is still primarily perceived as an ROV/robotics company. I was brought in to change that view, raise our profile and bring our global inspection, repair and maintenance capability to clients in the Asia Pacific region.”
In order to do this effectively, i-Tech 7 chartered a purpose-built inspection, repair and maintenance vessel, owned by Australian company MMA (called the MMA Pinnacle), to work in the APAC region from May 2018. This has been fitted with a range of equipment for specialised subsea inspection and field support projects, including two 3,000m rated Centurion SP Work Class ROV systems, specifically designed to service deepwater projects. “We've taken the MMA Pinnacle on a long-term charter,” says Simon. “It's important to have because it gives us credibility with oil and gas operators in the APAC region. We can say to them: 'We have the track record, we have the personnel, we have the systems, resources and technology — and we now have the vessel to be able go out into the field and deliver inspection, repair and maintenance services for you.'”
Specific personnel needs
Working in Asia Pacific isn't without its challenges, however. One problem is that it's a large geographical area. “Our vessel might be working in Taiwan on a wind farm — but if the next job is for a client in Tasmania, then getting down there is a logistical challenge,” notes Simon. “Plus there's a cultural challenge because we'll have an Asian crew in Asia; but because of union rules we need an Australian crew in Australia. That chopping, changing and general lack of continuity can be difficult to manage.”
In this scenario, working with experienced personnel providers such as Atlas Professionals — which has supplied surveyors and ROV technicians for the MMA Pinnacle via its Perth and Singapore offices — is critical. “The reality is we have one major vessel, and don't have the resources to employ an entire team of people from Australia and an entire team of people from Indonesia,” says Simon. “We need the flexibility to quickly change the profile of our crews, which is why we lean on organisations such as Atlas that have a pool of local talent and can supply personnel for specific needs.”
Naturally, Simon needs to ensure that the professionals operating under the i-Tech 7 name are properly trained and experienced. “When we use a labour provider, we have to know that the individuals they send us meet International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) competency requirements,” says Simon. “So another thing we like about Atlas is that they've put in place an competence programme – in line with IMCA guidelines – to prove that its personnel are competent, properly trained and fully experienced, be they an ROV pilot, ROV supervisor, survey party chief or any other role. That's incredibly valuable to us.”
When we ask Simon what he enjoys about his job, his response is immediate. “People,” he says simply. “I love working with them! I love organisational challenges, too. Ultimately, it's my job to create a team who function well and enjoy coming to work every day.”
Indeed, 'enjoyment' is the operative word for him. “I like to sit in my office and hear laughter and a bit of banter,” he says. “In some organisations, it's so quiet it's like a library — which, to my mind, means the staff aren't having much fun. So if I can help people get the best out of themselves and their careers while actively enjoying what they do, then that's really gratifying.”