Members Profile: Mel Lewis, Mainstay Marine

Members Profile: Mel Lewis, Mainstay Marine

Mel Lewis is the Sales and Marketing Director at Mainstay Marine shipyard, a <40m vessel facility based in Pembroke Dock, West Wales.

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“My most memorable projects are perhaps topped off by having the pleasure of showing Sir Michael Palin aboard the small survey workboat we designed and built for British Antarctic Survey and sits in a davit aboard RSS Sir David Attenborough. Named Erebus, Sir Michael was impressed with the capabilities of such a small vessel and signed my copy of his book ‘Erebus’.”

Who are Mainstay Marine?

Mainstay operates from Pembroke Dock in West Wales and offers services in three key areas:

1) Bespoke design, build, maintenance, refit and repair of workboats up to 40m, mainly in steel and aluminium;

2) Specialist marine engineering, fabrication and refurbishment services to the defence and renewable energy sector; and

3) Maintenance and repair of quay-side infrastructure.

How long have you been working for Mainstay Marine and what does your role include?

I have been with the company since January 2012, having previously worked for 23 years testing and evaluating military aircraft. I joined as Technical Director responsible for the in-house design and technical solutions department, using my knowledge and experience in the aircraft industry to enhance our offerings. In reality, it was more about listening and understanding the complex challenges the marine world presents and working with each customer to deliver solutions to meet their requirements. In 2019 I moved into the role of Sales and Marketing Director, seeking opportunities aligned to our company strategy and vision for the future. I work with an excellent team in the preparation of bids for all new build vessels and renewable energy device fabrications projects, as well as supporting vessel maintenance and repair services bid work. Attendance at Seawork, Aquaculture and numerous other sector events is, of course, a mandatory pleasure, being able to meet up with potential clients and visit our suppliers to catch up on the year past.

What are your hobbies and interests?

With a background in electronics and programming, I am very interested in exploitation of new technology developments. I am a keen photographer, although these days mostly on the iPhone rather than an SLR, and more recently capturing life from the air using my new drone, so keep an eye out for some aerial shots appearing on Mainstay’s social media shortly! Lockdown has, of course, affected us all in one way or another but mostly working from home these days and seeing my camper van wasting away on the drive reminds me of the emerging opportunities of getting away to music festivals again.

When did your Maritime Career start and how?

I recall a few fishing expeditions during my teens, long-lining in Cardigan Bay with my brothers, but feeling somewhat seasick from the excitement! I chose to stay on firm ground and pursue a career in electronics as an apprentice with the MoD, at about the same time my brothers started their own company – Mustang Marine. My MoD career led me down a route that favoured life in the air, testing aircraft electronics systems etc., my only involvement with boats was to see the vessels during build when visiting my family during holidays. My wife and I had always talked about moving back home (Pembrokeshire) and in 2012 I secured the job here as Technical Director, which is when I really started my maritime career.

What are the strengths of Mainstay Marine?

Simply put, it is about people and processes! Yes, we have great facilities, but they are nothing without the robust processes by which our day-to-day operations are conducted, which is endorsed by our continued re-certification to ISO 9001, 14001 and 45001 standards. We have an exceptional workforce covering all disciplines necessary for the successful build, maintenance and repair of vessels and structures, with strong project management. Having an integrated design team enables us to offer our own solutions to client needs and to conduct the detailed design of vessel systems where structural design is procured externally. Our design capability covers all systems, including hydraulic and electrical aspects of the vessel and the associated electronics for control, monitoring and remote reporting.

What are the memorable projects you have been involved in?

We specialise in addressing the bespoke requirements of our clients and in doing so have been involved in the creation of many projects all with their unique features. The fabrication of the aluminium communications masts for the Type 26 frigates have demanded very high levels of precision, alignment and repeatability for which we have received excellent feedback on our abilities. The design and build of two sophisticated Fisheries Patrol Vessels for the Welsh Government, the abilities of our Marine Services team to turn-around vessels in a timely, professional and effective manner, such as the work carried out on CTV ‘Malltraeth Bay’ following severe damage suffered in Holyhead during storm Emma of 2018, and the building of the first tidal energy device to supply grid power all contribute to memorable achievements. Perhaps topped off by having the pleasure of showing Sir Michael Palin aboard the small survey workboat we designed and built for British Antarctic Survey and sits in a davit aboard RSS Sir David Attenborough. Named Erebus, Sir Michael was impressed with the capabilities of such a small vessel and signed my copy of his book ‘Erebus’. We are currently finalising fabrication of the main structure and PTO module of Bombora’s mWave wave energy converter and will be assembling the 75m x 20m, 850t device over the coming months ready for launch from our Ro-Ro slipway.

Are there any particular Ship Building considerations that need greater support in order to meet the Clean Maritime Plan: 2050 and the needs of the industry?

We believe we have the technology and capability to contribute to a reduced carbon footprint in the marine industry and welcome the opportunity to work with anyone wanting to explore our technology in the conversion of existing vessels or the design and build of new ones.

What are the future plans for Mainstay Marine?

Continuing to deliver excellent service for our customers and contributing to the successful transition to a carbon zero future for the maritime sector whilst securing long-term future employment for Mainstay employees. We have a collaboration agreement with a company specialising in the design and manufacture of electric propulsion systems utilising battery and hydrogen fuel cell technologies and are able to offer suitable solutions to reconfigure existing vessels and build new ones that are carbon zero from the propulsion perspective.

L-R: Welsh Fisheries vessel ‘Lady Megan’,
Sir Michael Palin and the BAS survey workboat ‘Erebus’.