UK-based UMC International provides underwater and afloat inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) support for commercial shipping, offshore, naval and port marine construction markets from a network of offices across the globe. A central pillar of this network is its Singapore-based South East Asia hub, where business has expanded rapidly since its establishment in 2009.
UMC managing director, Alan Trevarthen, says: “Our presence in South East Asia is a major force behind the growth and development of the company’s global IRM service. Indeed UMC’s Singapore team is today considered a market leader within the region.”
The decision to establish an operational hub in Singapore was taken shortly after UMC International joined the V.Ships Group. The world increasingly looks towards Asia for trade, and Singapore’s strategic position and status as one of the world’s busiest ports with a vast traffic, a major anchorage, a leading shiprepair capability and nearly 40 shipyards made it the ideal location for UMC to establish a regional afloat repair headquarters, Trevarthen points out.
Globally UMC now services customers in more than 300 ports, anchorages and offshore locations, and executes over 2,000 underwater IRM operations a year. The greatest concentration of work is now undertaken in South East Asia. This is primarily in and around Singapore, but an increasing volume of business is also being delivered in the wider region, notably Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.
UMC’s operations in South East Asia were further strengthened in late 2014 by the acquisition, by the parent V.Group, of Singapore-based Core IRM. “Core complements the services of UMC perfectly by offering a wide range of afloat and underwater IRM services focussed primarily on the offshore rig market,” says Trevarthen.
Core and UMC work very closely together and have integrated support and management functions that allow them to offer a wide range of underwater and afloat IRM services. These range from port marine construction projects, where their customers include shipyards, oil refineries and power plants, to commercial shipping and offshore rigs at a berth or anchorage, and to offshore fields where the rigs, support vessels and storage units are operating.
UMC SE Asia now has the capacity to deploy five inshore IRM diving teams simultaneously. With the support of Core, it has the additional capacity to deliver the full range of its services offshore and throughout the region at multiple, concurrent locations. Trevarthen says: “This makes UMC’s underwater IRM scope of supply unparalleled in the region.”
Amongst the most technically challenging services that UMC Singapore delivers are OEM approved inspection, repairs and replacements of tunnel thrusters, seals and propellers. UMC is accredited as a preferred supplier for several major stern seal, thruster and propeller OEMs and the process of accreditation with additional OEMs is well advanced.
A recent example of such support was the re-profiling and balancing of a ship’s propeller blades, which were undertaken at anchorage under the instruction of the OEM and oversight of the vessel’s Technical Superintendent. The vessel, a bulk carrier, had discovered during a recent survey that one of its propeller blades had a significant crack and UMC was tasked to execute the OEM’s repair plan. The repair involved rebalancing the propeller by cropping the damaged and opposing blade, using specialist equipment and a template from the manufacturer to indicate where the blades were to be cropped. The propeller was first polished and then, after a detailed inspection to identify if there were any other areas of possible damage, the OEM’s cut lines were confirmed by carefully measuring from root to the leading and trailing edges on each blade. After cutting the blades, the cut lines were rounded out and the corners of both the leading and trailing edges were profiled with a radius of approximately 50mm. The ship’s subsequent sea trial was carried out without any problems and vibration and bearing temperatures were well within limits.
Much of UMC’s work is delivered to vessels visiting the Singapore anchorage. A close juxtaposition with a major international shipping lane and the Singapore port ensures the anchorages are always busy and the operational tempo remains high. Ensuring a safe system of underwater work in this context is a recognised challenge and one of UMC’s highest priorities. In 2014 the Singapore Standards Council introduced an approved code of practice (SS511) for commercial diving inshore; the Commercial Association of Divers (Singapore), of which UMC is a founding member, provided significant help in drafting this code.
Richard Tan, UMC’s South East Asia general manager says: “We are delighted to see the introduction of this new code for safe diving practice. It fits well with our global diving standards and levels the playing field.”
For UMC, raising the standards of safe diving practice when working inshore helps justify continued investment in the training and equipment that is required to provide a reliable, comprehensive IRM support across South East Asia.
UMC is upbeat about market prospects in the region. Trevarthen concludes: “We are delighted by the progress we have made in South East Asia and, working with Core, I am sure it will continue. There is no doubt of the market’s appetite for affordable, cost-effective afloat and underwater IRM services, especially from a provider with a regional and global reach.”