Chief Executive Officer
It is now just under a year and a half since the UK-based High Speed Transfers Limited (HST) took delivery of the first Fast Crew Supplier (FCS) 2710 to roll off the Damen production lines. Christened Hudson, it was also HST’s first vessel of any kind, the company having been established just a few months previously. Together, HST and Damen’s first FCS 2710 came to the offshore crew transfer market following a detailed analysis of established operational practises and vessel designs and the application of that knowledge to create something better across a wide range of performance indicators.
Clearly Damen, HST chief executive officer Tom Nevin and his fellow founders had hit on something. Within 18 months of HST’s first delivery they have three FCS 2710 vessels in operation with a fourth due to be handed over in November 2019. Their initial focus was the high growth wind farm sector, however, the intention was always to bring their offering to the much larger offshore oil & gas market, in order to reduce their dependence on a single sector and in early 2019 HST finally had the chance to show what they could offer.
From wind to oil & gas support
The client that gave them their break was Shell and the boat was HST’s second FCS 2710, Sofia. Delivered in March this year, she immediately started a three-month charter with the oil & gas major. Her role was to perform oil & gas crew transfers to support the Noble Globetrotter II drill ship undertaking an exploratory drilling programme in the Black Sea, specifically in the Khan Kubrat block, around 70 miles south-east of the Bulgarian port of Varna, where the HST Sofia was based. During the charter, Shell evaluated her performance and her ability to meet their specific and demanding needs.
“It was a great success,” says Tom. “The charter ended in June with zero incidents and she ably demonstrated that vessels of her type can compete head-to-head with helicopters. I am delighted to be able to say that we are now an approved supplier to Shell and are in discussions regarding possible future projects involving the FCS 2710 vessels.” Meanwhile, the Sofia is now back in northern Europe where she is working alongside the Hudson on a contract for Boskalis on the East Anglia One windfarm in the southern North Sea.
Strong demand, further orders
In January and March this year HST placed orders with Damen for boats three and four. With Damen operating a series production line for the FCS 2710, the Harri and Euan are scheduled for delivery in September and November this year respectively and are already booked to start straight away on five-year contracts in the North Sea with wind farm operator MHI Vestas following a highly competitive tender. Their duties will include delivering personnel and equipment to multiple sites.
“Winning that tender shows how far we have come as a company in a short space of time,” says Tom, “and that the demand is there for what we have to offer. Hudson has set an excellent precedent working on multiple windfarms, first on the west coast of the UK servicing existing farms before moving on to Belgium where she assisted with construction. She exceeded all expectations. With four boats soon to be on-stream, we have now doubled our shore staff from three to six by adding an operations manager, a technical superintendent and an office administrator. It’s still a tight ship, however.”
The Welsh national rugby team visits HST newbuilds at Damen Shipyards Antalya
So what is the secret of HST’s success in what is a competitive market? “Well, the FCS 2710 has certainly played a major role,” says Tom. “These basically come out as high-end top performing vessels for the wind industry and at HST we can offer them in combination with a hand-picked, experienced crew pool and a strong work ethic. To a vessel that delivers an unbeatable package of economy, reliability, safety and comfort, not to mention flexibility, we have added a service model that focuses on the human element, the awareness of the small details that together add up to a journey that ensures that the passengers arrive at their destinations in first class shape. HST may be a new company but as a management team we together have many years of experience in crew transfers and know the importance of the small things such as really good coffee and fast Wi-Fi.”
Remote monitoring pays dividends
Another factor that appeals to the end clients is HST’s embrace of the latest technology to ensure minimal downtime for the vessels. For HST, remote monitoring plays an important role in efficiency and ongoing optimisation. Damen-installed systems currently monitor 25 different variables ranging from push forces to fuel consumption. The information is available both live to the skippers and also as daily overviews for study on shore. This detailed analysis provides valuable insights into the vessels’ behaviour and so plays an indispensable role in optimising operations for economy, reliability and safety.
With a business model that successfully serves both the paying customers and the individuals being carried on board, Tom and the team are looking ahead to fresh challenges. “Earlier this year we set up a partnership with Boston Line and Services to provide crew transfer services using Damen FCS 2710 vessels to support the fast-emerging offshore wind sector on the north-east coast of the USA. We have submitted tenders and we will learn the results in the autumn. We are also looking at the possibility of expanding our fleet to include larger vessels and are in discussions with Damen regarding what might best suit our markets and ambitions.
“All in all,” Tom states, “I am optimistic for the future. The crew transfer sector is in good shape with firm demand for those vessels that can meet the high standards of the customers. New vessels are being built by our competitors but other vessels have been deployed to new markets or modified for other purposes, so it feels in equilibrium. For HST as a new entrant we have a big advantage of starting with a fresh canvas and therefore have a fleet of entirely new, state-of-the-art vessels. With our experienced team we look forward to steady growth, but there is no room for standing still.
“For example, I’d to see a balance of our customers in renewable energy and hydrocarbons in terms of the companies that we serve,” he continues. “It makes business sense. Hopefully, the successful trial with Shell will mark the start of that process. We are also looking at adopting technologies such as hybrid propulsion systems both to reflect the values of our customers that we work with in renewable energy and also to generally present a cleaner operational profile in our own right.
"But, overall, I’d say that we have momentum at present, and we get the feeling that that are plenty of other operators of crew transfer vessels out there who wish they had a fleet of FCS 2710s!"
Boston Line and Services