Posted on 7th April 2021
Celebrating 100 remote services
Before the pandemic
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic became a global issue. This in itself came with its own set of problems for the maritime industry as it was facing difficulties in transporting trade, financial losses and borders closing meaning that contact would be limited and lockdowns through various countries ensued. This also led to grounding of flights across the world, severely limiting the ability to change crews and for service engineers, inspectors ect to attend vessels in person.
The pandemic also massively affected the employment in the industry and how it operates. Those newly employed to the industry were shortly made redundant and reports of thousands of seafarers were stranded for up to eleven months at a time.
This raised concerns in the industry about the mental health and safety of crews who are facing massive amounts of anxiety about being stuck and away from their friends and families added with the stressors such as communication difficulties and language barriers.
The safety of crews on board these ships was also a worry as without sufficient tests and calibrations, sensors may be operating outside required gas tolerances without crew knowledge or equipment shelf life may be depleting, resulting in faulty and possible inaccurate testing, which posed a huge risk to all those on-board.
What is remote servicing?
Our engineers with Martek’s servicing team were no longer able to travel and work on-board vessels who could have been facing very dangerous safety concerns and had to come up with an effective temporary solution to keep crews as safe as possible.
There was concern with local untrained third parties being utilised for convenience. who may not test and calibrate as efficiently Martek Marine engineers. From work being witnessed from cheaper, third parties, we found issues of corners being cut and ‘nuisance’ alarms would be silenced when these alarms may actually be valid and necessary, in some situations alarms may have been completely muted just to satisfy the customers concerns, not understanding that the system would never alarm in future should crew need to be aware of presence of gas. This could potentially be very dangerous and even cause fatalities.
Whilst on board services were most convenient for the crew, as the service team could come on-board, service the equipment and get on with what needed to be done with minimal to no interference required from crew members.
Remote servicing is a temporary solution to the challenges COVID-19 threw at the marine industry. On board servicing was no longer an option, so our team decided to provide crews with the resources and highly detailed instructions of how to service the on-board equipment themselves, with our crew guiding from home.
How we adapted
Instead of admitting defeat in the face of adversity, the service teams devised a way that vessel crews could still have their Martek systems be given a clean bill of health, via remote support. This was conducted via mobile messaging applications, sharing instructions, guides and images, giving advice to crew on board on how to service equipment without the team physically being on board. A new process was developed, of dispatching and returning the necessary spares to ensure Martek Marine’s ‘first time fix’ standards remained high.
Another risk Martek posed was getting spare parts for the equipment to the vessels. Thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment was being sent over to vessels which could have resulted in a huge loss of revenue to the company as well as resulting in crews being no better off. However, the risk posed to crew’s safety massively outweighed the risk of financial loss.
Remote servicing saw a significantly reduced invoice for the customer as no travel time or travel expenses were required, as well as ensuring systems were maintained without risking the health of the Martek team and ship crew members.
The level of detail and “feel” for the equipment and services was not the same remotely as it is when engineers physically board the vessel. While remote servicing is an excellent temporary solution, it was found that there are many things that cannot be assessed, regards system performance, remotely. Things usually seen, heard, felt, or even smelt. Losing that human element has been a real challenge. However, the main and obvious functions, calibrations, and repairs could be conducted with ease.
It is safe to say, remote servicing will not completely replace actual service attendances, but will absolutely remain a sustainable product and something Martek Marine can continue to offer customers in future, with certain caveats in place. For example, in the future, remote services may be limited to vessels in hard to reach locations, locations deemed a security risk, or if urgent circumstances arise.
Despite all the challenges, we are so pleased to announce that we have achieved 100 remote services. This is an incredible achievement, considering that remote servicing is a temporary solution and designed to be a short-term requirement at the start of the pandemic.
The crews on board the vessels that required their Martek systems servicing, supported the team hugely by giving up a lot of their time in order to conduct the service checks and follow calibration procedures. The life of a seafarer is indeed very busy, so the team are grateful to the 100+ crews who have supported them along the way.
Kudos also to the entire Martek service team, who have found new levels of patience, resilience and adaptability in light of these trying times.
The creation of this sustainable and safe product allowed the business at Martek to remain steady and generate revenue, but most importantly is keeping systems operational, and crews and staff safe. While the service team are eager to get back to normal operation as soon as possible, they are still expediting several remote services on a weekly basis to ensure customers systems are in the best condition possible.
Whilst we are so happy about this incredible achievement, we still cannot wait for things to return to normal and get our teams back on-board for in person calibration and safety tests.