In our latest ‘member profile’, we speak to Malcolm Duncan of Briggs Marine, a longstanding member of the association, with 28 workboats registered. Malcolm gives us an overview of the firm’s current commercial priorities as an integrated marine service provider – and an insight into the challenge of helping clients reduce project costs while facing increasing operational demands.
Tell us about Briggs Marine. What is your commercial background and what are your core areas of business?
The Briggs Group is a family-run and owned business, based out of Burntisland in the Firth of Forth. When we started out in the 1970s our core business was in workboats, but we have since diversified to become a more comprehensive, integrated maritime service provider – split between Marine and Environmental Services.
In practice, this means that we have a wide range of capabilities from vessel charter and management, to subsea and diving services, emergency response and salvage.
Currently, on the Marine Assets side, lots of our work is focused on supporting large-scale construction and infrastructure projects, offshore wind construction and maintenance, and subsea cabling projects. On the Environmental Services side, we have a track record of responding to major incidents, and one our first assignments was helping to mitigate the impact of the Piper Alpha oil platform disaster in 1988.
We have maintained a global presence, with marine operations not just around the UK coast, but further afield in the Atlantic and Pacific. We also have an International office in Baku, Azerbaijan that provides a base for our environmental services division.
We currently own and operate over 50 vessels, 28 of which are workboats registered with the NWA. The others include specialist crane barges, pontoons and cable laying vessels.
When did you join the business, and what is your current role?
I started at Briggs in 2012, having spent 35 years at sea working my way up through the ranks from junior seaman to Master.
My current role is Marine Operations Superintendent, where I am responsible for ensuring that all vessels are compliant with legislative requirements, and that the fleet as a whole is safely run. I’m also responsible for keeping clients happy – which means ensuring that we’re delivering the most effective service possible.
In January, I’ll be moving away from vessel management and charter work for the first time to focus on our Aids to Navigation and Moorings business, where I’ll be General Manager.
What’s the latest news at Briggs? Which markets are you currently targeting?
One exciting development on the workboat side was the launch of Forth Warrior last year, a Damen 2712 Multicat with dynamic positioning and a four-point mooring system. She is an extremely versatile vessel capable of a range of supporting a range of operations from anchor handling to diving, towage, dredging, survey, subsea cable work and salvage.
As such, she’s stayed busy – and provides a strong example of our drive to maintain a diverse and versatile fleet, and create a more integrated service offering.
In terms of markets, offshore wind continues to provide opportunities. Unlike a number of NWA members, we don’t operate crew transfer vessels (CTVs), but there is a lot of other work available for versatile workboats, including maintenance and repair of subsea cables.
Are there any current market trends or dynamics that are having an impact on the commercial strategy?
The offshore renewable energy market has a strong focus on reducing costs. This is increasing the importance of driving efficiency by fostering greater collaboration between those involved in project development, and between vessel operators.
It is also a driver in our ambition to deliver a bespoke and fully integrated service for windfarm maintenance. Versatility from vessel operators will be essential in realising cost reduction goals.
Are you encountering any market challenges?
With clients (in many industries) looking to reduce project costs, on the one hand, and, on the other, increasing their demands when it comes to vessel support, it can be challenging to reconcile and balance these two requirements.
What do you see as the most important functions of the association?
Briggs has been a longstanding member of the NWA, dating back to the development of the first Workboat Code. We therefore recognise the role that the association plays in listening to its members and taking those recommendations on board in discussions with the relevant maritime authorities.
In particular, the NWA provides a level of access to the MCA and various flag states that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, and enables members to get their concerns addressed at the highest level.
Ultimately, the goal is ensuring best practice, and, in addition to the above, the NWA’s well-run Safety Forums and accident statistics data make it easy to share lessons learnt and improve overall standards.
How have you found being a member of the committee? Are there any particular experiences or initiatives that have been particularly valuable?
Being on the committee has been valuable, since it has enabled to me to take an active role and represent the industry in key discussions – for example the recent meeting with the MCA.
It has also provided an invaluable insight into the challenges we share with other members and brings together the viewpoints of those involved from across the sector, which benefits the industry as a whole.