Javier García Bejos
Director General
Heliservicio
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View from the Top

Offshore Safety Above Anything

Wed, 01/25/2012 - 17:22

Q: What have been the main drivers of the development of a safety culture in the Mexican oil and gas industry?

A: In the oil and gas industry, safety is a real concept and a top priority. Since it is a high-risk industry, assets are valuable and you are working offshore, you can feel the importance of safety performance everywhere you go to a greater or lesser degree. Pemex has led the drive towards improved safety and shared common values right across the industry. You cannot send a helicopter to an oil rig that is unsafe, just as you cannot send an unsafe helicopter to an offshore platform.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learnt in the aviation industry is that if you improvise you will fail: you need to have a plan, think about the long-term, and have a good team. You can have all the capital resources you want, but if you don’t have the right people to move a company, your company will never be successful. Only by investing in our people and our fleet can we ensure our long-term economic success and safety record.

Q: How has your business model evolved in recent years in order to ensure alignment with this long-term vision?

A: In 2003 we completely changed the vision of our business, and decided that the energy sector should be our core business. Since then, we invested in operating capacity, new technology, and our people. Today, we have around 700 employees, divided between our maintenance and operations companies, and operate almost 40 aircraft. We fly around 50,000 hours, move more than 1 million passengers per year, and 99% of our flights are dedicated to the Mexican energy sector.

We have built a very aggressive internal programme to ensure that the more than 100,000 components that are in daily use in our engineering department are handled consistently with operational safety in mind. Investing in technology not only allows us to maximise safety efforts, but also improves our results dramatically. We are currently working with a company called Skybooks, a part of Textron, which develops great software to administrate and manage the maintenance centre of our helicopters. This two-year effort has brought tremendous change to our company.

Our pilots are handling US$12 million aircraft with 12 people in the back, so they have a huge responsibility. A lot of our new pilots came from the air force in recent years, which is fantastic because an air force pilot’s education is second to none. By implementing Blue Sky, a software that enables us to see at any time the location of our helicopters, the name of the pilot, and allows us to communicate with them.

Q: What has been the impact of your increasing business volume with international offshore contractors on your performance standards?

A: Working with international firms and global operators has only strengthened the commitment of our people to safety. They recognise that if you make safety the core reason for being in the air transportation industry, then you will gain the confidence of your customers. Companies working for Pemex use international safety standards and frequently audit their service providers. In the last three years, we have been subject to more than 30 quality and safety audits by external firms, Pemex, our partners and Bell Helicopter.

Q: Which change will the shift to deepwater operations bring to air transportation in the oil and gas industry?

A: We know that the future of Pemex is in deepwater, and the company is working to face that challenge. We know that sooner or later the oil and gas sector in Mexico will boom again, and we will be ready to capitalize on this opportunity when it appears. For the last two years, we have built a fleet capable of operating in deepwater, prepared our pilots and engineers, and invested in our stockroom.

We are now involved in air transportation for private companies conducting seismic surveys in deepwater areas, an activity that has been growing substantially in the last years. Pemex’s long-term deepwater plans will depend on its exploratory success, but we are already facing not only higher demand from Pemex for passengers to be moved to their assets in deepwater, but also from private companies.