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Continuing to improve throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – Normand Clipper upgrade and mobilisation

Thursday 2nd July 2020


In February this year we announced the addition of the Normand Clipper to our Group fleet. Since then our team of engineers, working alongside our regular supply chain have been working on the vessel’s mobilisation and upgrade from our hub in the Port of Blyth.

With the addition of a 4,000 tonne cable carousel, two 15-tonne cable tensioners, a 25-tonne quadrant deployment frame and a fully integrated control system, the project has been significant, and just as the team were making great headway, Covid-19 took hold across the globe.

Despite the myriad of challenges that this has created, the team have been working closely with suppliers and customers to best manage the continuation of work on the project and minimise impact to the schedule.


Video: Global Marine Group’s Normand Clipper – mobilisation and upgrade in 2020

A commitment to our trusted suppliers

Management of the Covid 19 has been a very dynamic situation, as the world continues to learn about the virus, guidance from governments has changed to adapt.  Our suppliers have responded to this with a range of actions, with organisations choosing to furlough employees where incoming work has slowed, and others have shut completely.  GMG have tried to provide certainty to our suppliers where little existed from other sources, committing to spend and progress, providing they committed to safe working and continuing to operate where it was safe and legal to do so. 

Whilst there has been a need because of this to procure alternate suppliers for certain elements of the Normand Clipper mobilisation and upgrade project, we have remained loyal to our trusted suppliers throughout the mobilisation and upgrade, many of which are smaller operations, reliant on this kind of work in the local area. Because of these existing relationships, being open and honest with our supply chain has come easily, and has been vital in supporting the realistic revision of scopes of work, project milestones, and pulling together with a common end-goal.

We have had approximately 10 trusted suppliers on site engaged directly throughout March and April.  When considering that the numbers increase by an order of magnitude when reviewing our suppliers, it was critical that we maintained a legal, safe environment with a can-go attitude towards continuing work.

Ensuring a safe environment for all

Keeping our vessel and working environment Covid-free and safe for our employees, contractors and any other visitors to site has been our number one priority throughout the last few months. Strict control were in place on site as to ways of working, temperature monitoring was installed quickly and private testing was provided for suspected cases to understand the situation and minimise the impact to NHS resources. 

To minimise the risk of bringing the infection to site, we worked closely with suppliers to keep the same individuals on site so that new personnel weren’t continually being introduced to the sterile environment so far as possible.  Travel was limited and car sharing banned.  Whilst not an ideal approach for green transport, ultimately we recognised the importance of getting this right first time. These actions came at a cost of slower working and fewer people being allowed on site at any one time (limiting our flexibility to scale the workforce up when required for the more the labour-intensive elements) but has been a necessary step to safeguard our people and ensure that planned progress continued, albeit at a slower pace than pre Covid-19.

Working in a new socially distanced situation

To achieve effective social distancing, we organised extra accommodation units onboard the vessel so that not everyone was within a single area, minimising cross over of personnel. As said previously, to support this, we also conducted temperature checks daily, and anyone feeling unwell or with links to anyone that did, were instructed not to come into work and ensure that we were kept informed of any diagnosis to enable potential spread to be limited.

The Normand Clipper has already been put to work on the final few weeks of initial boulder picking operations on Vattenfall’s DKF site

Collaborating with our customers

GMG have maintained a flexible approach with our suppliers and are extremely proud to be working in the same way with our clients.  Where projects have been delayed, assets have be re-tasked where possible to support when needed.  This has prevented protracted time of vessels alongside which would be beneficial to no-one and prohibitively expensive for those who were required to pay for it.

In a way this does have some benefit, in clearly demonstrating GMG collaborative win-win approach; as a company we want our assets offshore, fully utilised performing useful work, as do our customers who want the assets on their projects.  Arguing about short term wins and keeping the vessel alongside for contractual advantage isn’t sustainable when considering long term relationships.

The Normand Clipper is working alongside Global Offshore’s Global Symphony on a combination of offshore renewables, oil and gas, power as well as telecommunications installation and repair project. Due to wider impacts of Covid-19, other projects for the company have moved to the right, and thanks to the continuation of the vessel’s mobilisation over the last few months, the Clipper has been able to support the Symphony on Vattenfall’s Danish Kriegers Flak project with boulder picking works. Whilst the Symphony has moved on to her next project at the Kincardine Floating Offshore Wind Farm, the Clipper has been able to backfill the final few weeks of work on the DKF site and put the hard work of the vessel mobilisation team, throughout our entire supply chain, to good work.