Winter 2012

A Day in the life of: David Milne

We find out how David Milne, a James Fisher Angola project manager, has been managing large contracts within the oil industry.

My background was in the Royal Navy, in which I spent 28 years as a Marine Engineer. As you can imagine, during that time I had exposure to all sorts of challenges ranging from being sunk during the Falklands war on HMS Sheffield to project managing and fundraising the building of a school in Sierra Leone for orphans to training the Iraqi Navy on the operations and maintenance of their fleet of fast patrol craft. 

Since leaving the Royal Navy just over 5 years ago, I have worked for Lloyds Register of Shipping in the London plan approval office in a project management role, followed by two years as a ships manager for BAE Systems in the Falkland Islands, managing a contractor logistics support contract for the patrol vessel HMS Clyde. Both roles were challenging in their different ways.

New role with Fendercare

I was invited to join Fendercare in March of this year, to fill a very exciting role as an export tanker ship support (ETSS) project manager based in Luanda, Angola on a rotational basis. When first approached by Fendercare Marine, my first thought was “Is it safe?” and, having since joined the project, this is generally the reaction I get when I tell people what I do for a living. The answer is that working in Angola is safe as long as you are sensible, as is the case in any country in the world.

The ETSS contract is a $230M contract with BP Angola, providing diving cover, underwater inspection, maintenance and provision of a static tow capability for export tanker operations in two Angloan oil exploration areas, Blocks 18 and 31. The contract has been awarded to James Fisher Angola for 5 years, with options to extend for a further 2 years. This is a significant win for the James Fisher Group, to have entered into the ETSS business in Angola with such an oil company that is so well-established in this part of the world. Having a footprint on the ground offers exiting potential to explore other future business in a country which is dynamic and is developing at a great pace.

Managing sub-contractors

The work is challenging and different to anything I have done before. My day-to-day duties include attending BP operations meetings and ensuring service delivery is maintained to a high standard and in line with the requirements of the contract, and to time and budget. I manage sub-contractors, and ensure that a high standard of operations, vessel availability and capability is maintained at all times, making certain that export tanker off loads are achieved to schedule in a safe and timely manner. I also work closely with James Fisher Angola staff and local agents to facilitate port calls and crew changes.

Since the contract was awarded, the project has gone through a challenging embryonic period, but is now fully up and running and providing export tanker operations support to the BP floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) unit Greater Plutonio in Block 18, as well as supporting a project start-up in Block 31, for which additional swim teams are currently undergoing training.

Greater Plutonio has been producing oil since October 2007 and operates in 1200-1500 metres of water, connected to 43 wells spread over a 34 mile area of the sea bed. It produces 250,000 barrels of oil every day which are offloaded and exported every 3-4 days by export tankers berthed, connected and disconnected by the James Fisher Angola offshore team. The team also maintain and inspect the Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring (CALM) buoy, the largest in the world, and the export hoses, to which the tankers are berthed and connected to for export operations.

Local staff development

James Fisher Angola is 51 percent owned by an Angolan partner, and the office is predominantly supported by local Angolan personnel, who undertake the day-to-day local administration duties. It is our vision to extend local employment in the future as the project matures. Offshore we have already placed local divers as tenders to the multinational swim team, and it is envisaged that these people will be developed to take on more challenging roles in the future which will form part of the Angolanisation programme.

The ETSS Project is also supported by a team of people based in Seething, which provides administrating document control duties, and supports and oversees the commercial aspects, HSE and marine assurance of the project as well as diving operations, personnel management and project direction. This close working relationship between the teams has been critical to the project’s success and has been achieved despite very different cultures and work ethos. Tying the two teams together is very much part of my role, and one which I very much enjoy.

Leisure sailing

Outside work, I am a keen sailor. Working on a four week rotation allows me time I would not have in a normal job to spend on my boat. Since taking up this post my wife and I have cruised to France and the Channel Islands. Our ambition when we retire is to take part in an Atlantic crossing and go cruising further afield.

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