Harkand’s North American operations began in 2013, and by the end of 2014, the company had increased its revenues by 50%. The firm decided to enter Mexico in 2013, when it took over Veolia Marine Services’ operations in Houston. At that time, the operations were limited to the US and part of the strategic growth plan was to expand its business geographically and given the previous experience that Ashit Jain, Harkand’s Managing Director - North America & Africa, had in Mexico, this country became an obvious choice.
“Our main motivation for entering Mexico was the fact that we specialize in inspection, repair, and maintenance (IRM) of ageing shallow water and deepwater assets. Given the mount of installed offshore infrastructure in shallow water blocks, the country provides a considerable opportunity for our services,” he shares. Harkand opened an office in Ciudad del Carmen and in 2015, it was awarded a contract by Swiber Offshore for providing diving services in the Ayatsil project. Harkand’s strategy has always been to work for the main contractors upon entry into the market in order to build a solid reputation.
The issue with aging assets in shallow waters differs greatly from aging assets in deepwaters, tells Jain. “Typically, in shallow waters, the life expectancy of the infrastructure at the point of design ranges from 15 to 20 years, but in some of the fields it can end up being used for much longer.” The fact that many of the subsea structures are in an extremely corrosive environment results in a greater requirement for inspection and repairs to ensure there are no losses in the structural integrity, no shift in the pipelines, and no corrosion. “Finding the problems in advance and implementing preventive measures before issues arise can help the oil and gas industry, not just in terms of economic savings, but also by ensuring greater levels of safety and environmental responsibility,” Jain asserts.
One of Harkand’s most notable advantages is the fact that the company can provide both construction and IRM services with its own vessels, ROVs, and diving teams. This integrated service approach reduces overall risk on the project and reduces at-completion cost, thereby creating significant value for clients. Harkand has a fleet of ROVs and trained personnel in Mexico who can carry out the necessary tasks from well intervention operations, hydrate remediation, chokes replacement, and any other intervention that may be required to ensure trouble free operations. Jain points out that Mexico has a significant amount of talent, which he has seen first-hand. However, two areas in which he finds Mexico still lagging in terms of skills, and where Harkand can add value and apply its experience training employees in other countries, are ROV operations and specialized diving. “As a company that performs highly specialized diving operations, we can bridge the training gap here in Mexico to improve the skills of an already talented workforce. This has always been our model when entering new markets.” Jain says there are well- established local diving services companies in Ciudad del Carmen operating at the moment and working directly with PEMEX. Larger construction projects are slightly more technically-oriented, meaning they require significantly more engineering expertise, and this can be the niche in which Harkand differentiates itself.
Having a state-of-the-art fleet is another component that makes a company thrive in Cuidad del Carmen, and Harkand’s ability to maintain high-spec fleet is a byproduct of the way the company was formed. “Harkand was established when subsea vessel company Iremis was merged with two companies based in the North Sea called ISS and Andrews Survey in 2012. The company further expanded by acquiring Veolia Marine Services. This buy- and-build strategy has set Harkand on the course to develop a robust fleet with a suite of complementary capabilities that benefit the other divisions while also fostering organic growth,” says Jain.
The majority of Harkand’s vessels are new, with the oldest in its fleet dating back to 2008. The company has higher spec vessels, most of which are equipped with two cranes and others have twin diving bells. While the daily cost of twin bell vessels may be higher, when examining the time saved in executing the project, the additional expenses are recovered. The company will launch a newbuild dive support vessel next year with capabilities for deepwater and shallow waters, the Harkand Haldane, which will be equipped with diving and ROV capabilities, its own survey equipment, and a 250-tonne crane that can work at a depth of 3,000m.