Any underwater repair or maintenance operation, no matter how complex or involved, does not begin with divers working underwater on the rudder or thruster or stern tube. The success of the operation starts in the company’s depot, with the equipment, its quality, its maintenance.
A key aspect of providing rapid, high quality service
No matter how willing, competent and hardworking the divers and technicians are, if they are working without the necessary equipment or with inoperational tools, the job can be delayed or fail completely. Even more important is the safety factor: when you are dealing with divers, equipment failures can mean severe injury or worse. Our policy regarding equipment has been a major contributing factor to Hydrex’s safety record of 50 years without a serious incident, as well as to our reputation for high quality work.
Safety, quality, efficiency
We don’t make sure we have the best equipment available and maintain it as close to 100% as possible because it’s “a nice thing to have.” There are three key reasons that we maintain these standards: safety, quality and efficiency (including cost-efficiency for our customers).
Safety is our first consideration in every job we do. Diving done incorrectly with poor or broken equipment can be dangerous. Done correctly with the right training, equipment and teamwork it is very safe.
Quality of work is jeopardized by missing, broken-down or poorly maintained equipment or simply the wrong equipment.
Efficiency is a very important factor when a ship is in need of repair or maintenance. Service must be delivered quickly without wasted time and effort. This is also a key factor in the overall cost of a job. It is why we can repair stern tube seals, for example, in half or a third of the time it takes another company, and at lower cost, as shown in numerous recent cases. Efficiency on the job represents a cost savings to our customers.
Poor equipment, lack of equipment, equipment that doesn’t work, unsafe equipment all severely cut across each of these points.
“We never cut corners or try to save money by compromising on equipment and maintenance,” says Boud Van Rompay, Hydrex founder and CEO. “It’s been that way since day one.”
Fast response center
To ensure that we always have enough equipment and material on hand and that these are up to standard and in good order, in 2001 Hydrex built and moved into a large, clean, well-organized, fast response center on the water in Antwerp, Belgium. The facilities were expanded and modernized in 2018; the fleet of vans, trucks and workboats all updated. Today the fast response center is state-of-the-art as far as equipment and vehicles, everything in excellent condition, ready to deliver advanced underwater maintenance and repair services wherever they are needed in the world.
“In order to expand our worldwide reach, we are in the process of fully equipping containers of equipment which we will place strategically in ports around the world,” says Boud. “That way the equipment is on site and all we have to do is fly in our personnel, saving the customer time and costs. The containers will be identical, so the divers can walk in and find anything they need right away.”
The Hydrex approach
Boud explains, “It has been our policy since Hydrex was founded in 1974 to have excellent, well-maintained equipment. Everybody contributes to executing the policy. Koen Smouts, in charge of equipment, is maintaining it and making sure the discipline is kept in. But the discipline is demanded of everybody.”
“It has nothing to do with maintaining that ‘precious’ equipment because it cost a lot of money,” continues Boud. “The point is that it has to be maintained in working condition in order to ensure safety and maintain a high level of production. In underwater work, it’s a chain, starting with the van, the truck, the workboats that bring the equipment and divers to a worksite. It goes from the purchasing to being channeled in the depot in the right places where it belongs and where it is maintained, and then it goes to the worksite. That entire chain has to be 100% or you can’t do the job. It’s a matter of, ‘For the want of a nail the kingdom was lost.’ We make sure that all the nails are in place.”
In good hands
Koen is a natural fit for the job he has which is to oversee the purchasing, maintenance and repair of all the equipment. When he was very young he started helping to repair the equipment in the 142-employee family bakery and was called upon to keep the company’s 43 vehicles on the road all the time so that deliveries could occur. Equipment maintenance and repair comes naturally to him. Koen has been in his current position at Hydrex for 24 years and has been responsible for maintaining the company’s standards with regard to equipment. It is constant hard work with many, many different factors and logistics to deal with continually.
Koen also ensures that all the rules and regulations regarding the equipment and the facilities are complied with. This includes arranging the necessary inspections of equipment, tools and vehicles, all the way from lifting gear to workboats to practice diving tanks. It takes excellent teamwork among all Hydrex divers and technicians to keep the equipment in good working order, and the fast response center orderly so that items can be found and mobilization for jobs is rapid and efficient.
ISO 9001 and now ISO 45001
Hydrex has maintained ISO 9001 certification since 1997 which has been a key measure of the quality level of the whole organization, including the equipment. We have also always maintained or exceeded the required safety standards, but have recently upgraded to ISO 45001 certification. “Because it is an ISO standard, it works in parallel with ISO 9001,” explains Manuel Hof, who is responsible for quality and safety standards for both Hydrex and sister company, Subsea Industries. “This upgrade will give our customers even more confidence in our insistence on the highest levels of safety,” he adds. In fact it did not require many changes to obtain the ISO 45001 certification since Hydrex has maintained rigorous safety procedures from the beginning. This has always included having topnotch equipment and keeping it in excellent working order.
In the final analysis, excellent equipment well maintained, in the hands of knowledgeable and experienced divers and technicians, benefits everyone, but particularly the customer. The result is speedier response, a faster and higher quality underwater operation carried out more cost-effectively.
A recent case in point
Coincidentally, while this article was being written, a perfect example came up. Hydrex was asked to carry out a hull cleaning on a vessel coated with Ecospeed. The local diving company who were supposed to clean the ship were not able to achieve a good result. We sent a team of two divers armed with two power packs and cleaning machines to go and rescue the situation. The divers arrived at the ship’s location and went to work. They were able to achieve an excellent result on the ship’s hull immediately. When they checked with the local divers to establish what the problem was, they found out that the power pack they were using was deficient and not able to deliver the necessary power required for effective cleaning. It was, in fact, the same power pack that our divers were using, but it had been dropped into the sea at some point and not properly repaired and restored. The result was a faulty power pack that could not deliver enough power to drive the brushes and effectively clean the hull. This is perhaps a minor example, but it makes the point. Due to poorly maintained equipment, the job could not be done correctly even by competent divers, and the customer was paying a higher fuel bill due to an inadequately cleaned hull. And nobody had spotted the real problem. This becomes much more serious on a major repair.
This policy regarding equipment has always been a key distinguishing factor of Hydrex services and a secret of our success.
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