Operating ROVs in a Safe Way Wherever Needed | HEROES

ROV Supervisor and Sub Engineer Mohd Firdaus Ramlan can’t believe his luck. He gets to do his dream job in exciting countries around the world, while constantly learning new skills.

Firdaus – an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicles) Supervisor and Sub Engineer based in Selangor, Malaysia – loves the freelance life and the flexibility it gives him. He has an unusual analogy for what he does. “I’m a bit like a taxi driver, really,” he says. “That’s because I go wherever the client asks me to go – but I always make sure I do so safely.” 

Firdaus had wanted to work in the marine industry for years. “My uncle – Zainal Abidin – is my inspiration,” he says. “He was the person who introduced me to the ROV world in 1998 and, ever since then, it has been my dream job.” It’s one that has taken him to numerous countries around the world including United Arab Emirates, Scotland, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.

Constantly learning new skills

After studying electric and electronic engineering at Malaysia’s Terengganu Advanced Technical Institute (TATI), Firdaus began his career in 2005 with Subsea Explore Services (SES), the integrated support service provider for the offshore industry. “I started in the SES workshop servicing ROVs, and getting involved with the manufacture of launch and recovery systems (LARS) and Control Van Systems,” he says. “By 2008, I was going offshore to work as an ROV Observer with the Saab Seaeye Falcon.”

Leaving SES at the end of 2009, Firdaus became a freelance ROV operative, working with companies such as Singapore-based ROV operator Alam Subsea, Neptune Marine Services, IKM, Horizon Survey, AOS Offshore and many others. “To be a freelance engineer in this business is tough because you need to learn a lot of skills,” he says. “You need mechanical, electrical, electronic and mechatronic skills in order to repair and maintain ROV systems. And because manufacturers are constantly updating and improving their ROV systems to make life easier for their clients, people in my line of work will never stop learning new things!”

Working well with Atlas Professionals

It was Atlas Professionals who found Firdaus his most recent assignment on the Nor Australis offshore supply vessel, working for Subsea 7 as an ROV Sub Engineer. “It’s not easy to choose a good recruitment agency,” he admits. “I talked to three of my friends who had worked with Atlas Professionals in the past. They gave me a good impression of the company, so I sent in my CV and things happened from there. They treat you well at Atlas – like a friend – and they’re easy to work with and to trust.” 

He also enjoyed working with Atlas on the photoshoot for this article. “I’ve never had an experience like that in my whole career!” he says. “But I thought: ‘Why not try something different?’ Although, if truth be told, I was sweating a lot because I was wearing an Atlas winter overall in hot Malaysian weather!”

Looking back over his career, Firdaus finds it difficult to pick out individual highlights, mainly because there have been so many. “I’ve enjoyed all the projects I’ve worked on,” he says. “But perhaps my first job as a freelance for AME (Allied Marine Equipment) was the one that helped me most, because that was where I learnt a lot of my ROV operating skills. From that point on, I knew I could be an ROV pilot anywhere. I’ll always be grateful to Wan Safuan who taught me.”

Always rising to a challenge

Firdaus prefers working at home in Malaysia. “It’s easy to find halal food here, and it’s where a lot of my friends are,” he says. “That said, I like to challenge myself and have new experiences, so it’s good to work outside of Malaysia, too.”

In fact, Firdaus thrives on a challenge and is constantly aiming high. “I always like to improve myself so I can move up to the next level,” he agrees. “Ambition-wise, who knows? Maybe I can become an ROV Superintendent, or diversify to become an ROV Auditor or ROV Assessor.” If anyone can do it, it’s Firdaus, whose favourite motto is: ‘You only fail when you stop trying.’

“That’s an important rule for me,” he explains. “Basically, it means I will not quit, no matter how hard things get. Whatever the problem, I will face it head on – and I won’t stop until I solve it in safe manner,” he concludes.