Sara Nandin Carvalho, Procurement & Contracts Manager

I have always been a curious person and learning by experience is something I recommend to everyone. Especially when you work for an industry where your main operations take place in remote offshore locations, and people spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for many weeks, working closely together with +100 other colleagues. This is how it works in the offshore energy industry. 

When you work in an office it’s a different story. As a Procurement and Contracts Manager, if you really want to understand the role you play, the needs of your requestors and proposals of potential contractors, you need to understand the offshore reality. When I was asked to join a campaign this summer as part of the Leadon decommissioning project, I was grateful for this valuable opportunity to learn from the operations team and see first-hand how decommissioning is executed. 

The campaign 

We departed Clipper Quay, Aberdeen on 16 June onboard Maersk Installer, one of the subsea support vessels which was recently added to Maersk Supply Service’s fleet. I then spent two weeks offshore where I learned a lot about how every team member plays a fundamental role in project processes and ultimate success 

Every operation involves a couple days of preparation. For example, to recover the Leadon North Towhead, we first had to cut drainage holes subsea to allow water and its extra weight to be released from the structure as it is lifted. Then there’s dredging activities which are required to allow rigging to be connected. We also need to work around the right weather windows to proceed with certain operations. I do not envy the job of the Offshore Manager and the gymnastics required to progress all activities without compromising safety or schedule, and always keeping up the engagement of the whole team – well done Andy. 

The 2019 Leadon decommissioning job for Total had a scope of three trips comprising various subsea recovery operations. The core activity of the campaign I was onboard for was to recover the North Towhead a subsea structure weighing more than 250 tonnes. The successful completion was the largest lift performed by a Maersk Supply Service vessel to date, using the 400-tonne active heave-compensated crane that is featured on the four I-class vessels.   

Key takeaways 

I took away three key learnings from this experience: Firstly, subsea removals are very ROV intensive and we need to engineer operations as straight forward as possible to reduce workload on the pilots – time is money – and simple solutions can make a big difference, such as colour coding rigging or hooks to allow for quicker connections and lifts. Secondly, we must never forget that 20-year-old subsea structures do not look exactly as they did when they were installed we need to be prepared for the unexpected. Finally, the learnings for an onshore person participating in opportunities like this should not be underestimated. We need to get outside our comfort zones and understand our operations in depth in order to work as best we can as an integrated team. Maersk Decom is therefore uniquely placed to benefit from these learnings and implement them to deliver effective and sustainable decommissioning projects – targeting no resource wasted.