Martijn Koppert – Director, Barge Master – Netherlands
Martijn Koppert discusses the scope of Barge Master’s technologies, the challenges he must tackle as the company’s director, and the role that his wave and motion compensation technologies have in helping shape the future of the offshore oil, gas, and renewable energy industries.
As an introduction for our readers, please describe your initial aspirations in targeting this market niche with the inception of Barge Master.
The idea to create this technology began a few years back when I noticed the downtime companies incurred due to wave motions and long swells. Long swells cause the vessels to start rolling, making operations unsafe and thus leading to downtime. My idea, along with my co-founders, was to create a safe solution where we can continue working and create a safer work environment for employees.
Only created back in 2008, Barge Master has already acquired business with some notable names in the oil and gas and offshore industries including Shell, Wagenborg, NAM, and GeoSea. Please define the role that the Netherlands, given the country’s innovative capabilities, has served in developing Barge Master’s technologies and overall business.
From a technical aspect we have been searching for the best partners in the industry, and many of the largest and most renowned oil companies are present here in the Netherlands. First, we worked closely with Marin during the research phase of the development and then we sought cooperation with Bosch Rexroth, a company with strong Dutch roots who is well respected in drive and control in the offshore industry. We also work closely with our sister company TWD, the engineering company that has worked with us from the beginning in mechanical designs.
From a technical perspective, there are a lot of experts in the Netherlands, and Barge Master has been able to have access to these industry experts. When you look at the commercial aspects, our clients, such as Shell and Boskalis, are all located nearby, which facilitates collaboration. Additionally, as a Dutch man who has been in the industry for some time, I have made a great deal of business relationships with major players here throughout my professional career, so I am proud to continue working in the land where so much great technology has come from.
Your impressive technologies include the BM-T700, BM-T40 and the BM-MCH. How are these three technologies suited to serve the needs of specific markets?
Our technology can be used in all markets, but is best suited for offshore markets in areas where there is a lot of swell and motion, such as the North Sea or along the coast of Australia or Angola. In conditions such as these, the added value of the Barge Master is significant.
With the government’s energy agreement for sustainable growth, the country is now experiencing an energy transition towards renewable sources such as offshore wind and tidal energy. To what degree has this trend impacted Barge Master’s market growth?
Initially the requests we received were in the oil and gas sector, but more recently we have experienced an influx of clients interested in using our products for offshore wind. This transition into offshore wind is happening in many European nations, such as Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Denmark. But also non-European nations interested in producing renewable energy, such as Japan, have an increased need for our products.
Over its brief history, the company has established an international agent network spanning multiple regions including the US, Asia, and Australia. Which geographic areas have demonstrated the most promising growth in the context of business development?
In areas where there is a lot of swell and a need to increase uptime, Barge Master’s product offering helps ameliorate some of the issues. In places such as the North Sea, Australia, and West Africa, many offshore projects experience an abundance of issues associated with downtime, and Barge Master has made tremendous strides to address these concerns. In the North Sea, we have completed two contracts where we used the BM-T40 and the BM-T700, allowing us to take the products from a testing phase to an operational phase. With our first projects, we have been able to demonstrate our technology in its upmost capacity with notable names in the industry, such as Boskalis and Shell.
With an increasing global trend towards offshore development and subsequent crane deployment operations, motion compensation technology is becoming more and more relevant. What sort of R&D initiatives is the company focusing on to accommodate anticipated demand in the market?
Currently, we are focusing on increasing awareness about the BM-T700 and the BM-T40. We hope to be able to rent out and sell these products throughout the globe where they are needed. We are also exploring other products, such as the motion compensated helideck. Motion technology has a firm place in the future because it increases safety, reliability, and reduces costs for our clients. It is also worth noting that current low oil prices are increasing the demand for lowering costs through the use of smart equipment, and motion technology is one way to drastically reduce costs.
What has been the feedback you have received from your clients regarding the use of this relatively new and groundbreaking technology?
Our clients have been very positive about the use of our equipment because it has allowed them to work steadily in periods where they would normally have downtime. For example, in the North Sea there is a significant difference between companies using our motion compensated platform technologies versus an expensive jack up. Companies are now able to have a platform where work can be completed in a more timely manner without the use of expensive helicopters having to transport employees from one platform to another.
Our involvement with the installation of the permanent connection bridge of the Shell Malampaya production platform in the Philippines showcased the efficiency of our technology. In this project Barge Master had a very short installation window of 48 hours during a shutdown where the project needed to have a piping bridge installed with the use of the BM-T700 motion compensated platform,regardless of weather conditions. With the use of the BM-T700, the company could plan their operations and production because of the added reliability.
Barge Master’s recent BM-T40 installation on the Kroonborg, Wagenborg’s Walk-to-Work vessel has been described as a “step changer for the entire offshore industry.” In your opinion, why was Barge Master chosen as the contractor of choice in furthering the agenda of this truly innovative vessel?
Our product, in my opinion, is one of a kind and the best from a technological perspective. During the design phase of the Kroonborg, there was no such thing as a motion compensated pedestal crane, but we had tested our BM-T700 out significantly, and it had been certified by Lloyd’s and DNV-GL, which gave our clients the confidence to let us develop the BM-T40. Shell and NAM were impressed by the test results and design of the BM-T40 and consequently opted to use our technology because the workability of our technology was ahead of the competition.
Parcom Capital recently acquired a majority stake in the company. What were the motivations behind such an arrangement and what impact will it have on the company’s strategic objectives moving forward?
Motion technology is a new technology and this is the perfect opportunity for Parcom Capital to join in and help promote the use of this technology. Parcom saw the potential of our well-organized company and our two very important contracts with Shell and NAM. Our quality products serve a market niche that will only grow due to product demand, while our new venture is helping move the company forward in a new way because we have more investment in research and development. For example, we are currently developing the second BM-T700 and hope to invest in new technologies in the coming future!
The company is proud of its ability to consistently deliver motion compensation technology to its clients in a safe and efficient manner. From a management perspective, to what extent does HSE factor into your day-to-day operations?
At the heart of Barge Master lies the idea op providing a safe solution for various operations under the difficult conditions of the marine and offshore/near shore practices.
It is therefor the policy of Barge Master to provide safe and healthy working conditions, both office and site based. Barge Master is doing this by implementing safe practices, establish safeguards against identified risks and by developing innovative solutions to suit a wide range of situations.
Where are your ambitions for the company in the next five years?
At the moment we are building a second BM-T700, which allows us to work at more locations at the same time. But it also opens up the opportunity to combine the two platforms, creating a motion compensated payload capacity of up to 1400 mT. In the next five years we are planning to expand the fleet.
In addition to this, we are always looking for next projects around the world (for both the BM-T700 as BM-T40 solutions). And also, our R&D team is developing a new product, to be released soon!