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Offshore and subsea construction company prepares for oil and gas industry upturn
USA-based offshore and subsea construction company Hydra has entered the saturation diving market with a powerful diving support vessel. The company says it has converted its flagship vessel, the MV Subsea Responder, and acquired a saturation diving system to prepare for an influx of projects as the oil and gas industry experiences an upturn.
“The oil and gas industry is showing signs of a bounce back after reaching a five-year low,” says Trevor Davis, president and CEO. “During that time, not all companies servicing the industry survived, which has left a need in the marketplace we’re eager to fill.”
The fully classed DP2 saturation diving vessel is available for immediate charter. Davis explains that the Subsea Responder was converted to a saturation diving vessel in 2018 after the acquisition of a 12-man SAT-14 saturation diving system. Now configured for saturation diving projects, the vessel is one of only three active DP2 SAT vessels operating in Gulf of Mexico, he says.
“The decision to convert the MV Subsea Responder was easy,” adds Brent Sappington, Hydra project manager. “As an inspection, maintenance and repair vessel, she already had existing equipment and 60-ton active heave compensated crane that made the alteration ideal.”
As well as the 60-ton crane, the Subsea Responder boasts ample deck space and accommodation for 57 personnel. In addition, all systems are a go. The vessel recently completed her five-year reactivation survey, US Coast Guard (USCG) five-year COI, FMEA, sea trials, ABS special survey and ABS load test, and the SAT system has been pressure tested and USCG approved.
The seasoned team overseeing projects for the Subsea Responder includes Davis, senior project manager Phil McNabb, SAT superintendent Frank Allbright and vessel master Lt Commander Marc Muldoon (US Navy Reservist).
“Our team is looking forward to meeting the needs of clients within the saturation diving market,” says Davis. “Hydra has been a leading offshore and subsea construction provider since we were founded in 2010, and we are excited to add this new offering to our suite of services.”
With more than 30 years of experience in saturation diving as well as offshore and subsea construction, Frank Allbright, Hydra’s saturation diving superintendent, is leading the company’s Subsea Responder team and played a key role in overseeing the vessel’s conversion to a saturation diving vessel.
Q: How many years have you been in the industry?
A: 31 years.
Q: Can you explain what you’re doing in the pictures?
A: I’m showing my father where I do my work. Although I’ve been doing this for a while, he’s never seen it.
Q: What inspired you to become a saturation diver?
A: I was a submariner in the United States Navy during the Cold War. While in the Navy, I was a sonarman and ships diver, so when I left the Navy, I decided to go to commercial diving school and make a career of it.
Q: What is one experience from the time you were enlisted that stands out?
A: I was on the USS Hawkbill (from Hawaii) for Ice X in 1986. We lived under the polar icecaps at the North Pole for three months, surfacing only for one day at the same time the USS Ray and USS Archerfish surfaced. That was the first time in history that this was done.
Q: When did you first train to be a diver?
A: I had the opportunity to become a Navy diver in 1987. Then after my time in the Navy, I went to dive school at Ocean Corporation in Texas in 1990. I graduated in 1991 and began diving commercially.
Q: What roles have you taken on in the industry?
A: I’ve worked offshore as a diving tender – the person who readies the gear and holds the diver’s hose – and worked my way up to lead tender, which is like a deck foreman. I then became a regular diver on multiple teams and various vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. During that period, I worked for Cal Dive, which is where I spent most of my time professionally. I started out as their lead tender and worked up to saturation diving supervisor. In between I was a surface diver, surface diving supervisor, gas diver and gas diving supervisor. After 10 years in saturation diving, I became a client representative for oil and gas clients, including Shell, Exon and Taylor Energy. I’d go out on vessels for my clients to see what they needed. It was interesting because I saw both sides of the job. I spent three years in this role and then Hurricane Katrina hit.
Q: What have you been doing most recently?
A: After Katrina, I took the opportunity to become an offshore construction manager, similar to what I’ll be doing for Trevor as saturation diving superintendent. I worked up into project management and was country manager in Aberdeen, Scotland, for an offshore vessel in 2014. I also got back to my roots and oversaw project management and offshore construction for the Mermaid Asiana and Mermaid Endurer for a couple years. Overall, I was in the UK and Middle East for about 10 years.
Q: What made you want to move back to the United States?
A: Things started to pick up after Trump was elected, so I moved back. I was tipped off that Trevor bought a vessel and saturation diving system, so I called him up to let him know I was interested in getting back into saturation diving in the Gulf of Mexico and would be around if he needed anything. I sent him my CV and it turns out he was hiring.
Q: Back to your diving experience, what is the deepest water depth you’ve worked in?
A: We were putting in a riser on the Bullwinkle platform in the Gulf of Mexico and the clamp wouldn’t hold. We sent a remotely operated vehicle down and learned part of the launching brace was still in place not allowing the riser to go into the clamp. We had to go down to 960 feet (293 metres) to cut away the launch brace.
Q: Does being underwater that deep ever bother you?
A: No, the depth really never bothered me. I feel at home in tight spaces – there’s something comforting about it.
Q: Can you share a memorable experience you’ve had while saturation diving?
A: When you dive in the same spot for a while, the little plankton will come in and create a feeding frenzy with marine animals like sharks and dolphins. One time when I was coming back to the bell, a school of dolphins was feeding, and an old, gray spotted dolphin swam up to me and rubbed his nose on my faceplate. I think he saw his reflection. Another time, there was a 300-pound (136-kilogram) grouper that was hanging around us. He would let us rub his belly and would follow us back to the bell because we’d feed him our leftovers. One sea animal I didn’t like were the eels. They’d hangout around the pipelines to stay warm and would try to bite your fingers as you worked.
Q: What is the best part about being a saturation diver?
A: It’s an indescribable feeling dropping out of the bell to go to work. It’s a lot different than going down a ladder on the back of a vessel as you do in surface diving. Also, there’s not a lot of people who do what we do; however, no matter where I go, I seem to know someone I’ve worked with, whether it’s South Africans, Trinidadians or people from the UK.
Q: What are you most excited about now that you are the saturation diving superintendent for Hydra?
A: I’m excited to be back in the Gulf of Mexico again, working with a tight-knit group of guys – which I call “putting the band back together”. No matter what the job was, this group of guys always tried to get on the same job. We still hang out together in our off time and I’ve had them visit me in Louisiana. We don’t work in a nine-to-five environment, so people in my neighbourhood can’t relate. But my friends in the diving or offshore community are the guys I relate to.