UK-based SMS Group provided two types of shipboard support in 2021, engineering, including mechanical, electrical and structural works, and interior outfitting, both of which are said to have performed “especially well”, with a number of significant new customers added to the client base.
Commercial director Nick Warren says: “Last year was busier than 2020, principally due to vessel reactivation programmes within the cruise sector. As a result of the rejuvenated cruise market we have increased our service offering too. The norm is now riding squads capable of multi-trade, turnkey projects rather than just trade specific offerings and we will routinely undertake works that will involve all trades and a singular space as opposed to just the one job or task.”
One of SMS’ advantages for cruise ship customers is the fact it is the only ship repairer located within Southampton’s docks. “Our location allows for easy logistical support and timely turnarounds,” says Warren. “We have also invested in more portable equipment and improved our IT infrastructure to support remote working.”
The company has further responded to the need for enhanced safety protocols as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We have worked long and hard with regard to Covid standards,” he adds. “Risk assessments have been written, and rewritten, and testing regimes introduced and updated, because it is key to our customers that we stay on top of this new level of risk.”
While based in the UK, SMS’ shipboard teams have worked all over the world over the past year, with not surprisingly the biggest challenge being ever changing travel regulations. “As an industry, and perhaps a nation, we simply need a period of legislative stability. In our business we must travel, and it needs to be easy,” Warren suggests.
Quality control is considered to be one of the keys to the success of the company’s growing shipboard maintenance and repair business. Warren says: “Our expertise is unrivalled and whilst our price point is not the cheapest, we do pride ourselves on delivering the very best suitably qualified experienced personnel. Our aspirations are to be build relationships with lifetime value, so we would rather decline a job than send inexperienced personnel and jeopardise future working relationships.”
Looking ahead to 2022, Warren is generally optimistic that the business will continue to grow. He says: “I think we will see more shipboard maintenance and riding squad action in both the cruise and ferry sectors this coming year. Budgets remain tight but there is plenty of planned and preventative maintenance to catch up on. And given that passenger capacity is reduced, contractor capacity has increased, so an opportunity presents itself.”
He also points out that growth in this sector has been supported by certification extensions which means more work can be done onboard in an ‘active’ vessel environment than ever before. “We are keen to support such works,” Warren adds.
The SMS Group has recently confirmed that last year, across all areas of activity, was the busiest in the company’s long history stretching back to 1958. The company currently employs more than 150 people and is based at Western Docks in Southampton. It also has sites in Glasgow, Lowestoft, Dover, Portsmouth, Poole, Bristol and Plymouth.