ONBOARD JOBS INTERVIEWS

CAPTAIN GAUTIER DE SAINT DENIS

1 / What has been your career path so far? Could you tell us more about your role on board ILE D’OUESSANT?

My name is Gautier DE SAINT DENIS and I joined the “Hydro” school (French Maritime Academy) in 2002. I graduated as a polyvalent officer cadet in 2006 and started to work for LDA in the deck and engine departments on cargo ships and service vessels.

After my post graduate degree in 2009, I specialised in cable ship operations and had the opportunity to participate in several projects in the Pacific Ocean (Tahiti, New Zealand, Fiji) and Asia (Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, Japan, etc.). My first mission on land was at LDA’s head office in 2013, as a consultant for the ALDA Marine joint-venture.

Back at sea, my duties were shared between ASN’s cable fleet and more ad hoc operations for the company's subsidiaries or partners. Some key operations included repairs of the French-English IFA 2000 electric cables with Louis Dreyfus TravOcean, and the connection of the HEBRON platform by NOKIA and SUBSEA 7 on behalf of EXXXON in Canada.

I have been involved in training since 2019, working as an instructor for CESAME (Training Center for survival and sea rescue) at the French Maritime Academy.

I was appointed as the captain of ILE D’OUESSANT shortly after she was brought under the French flag. and I have been at the helm since she sailed from France to Poland to be converted from a supply ship into a cable ship at the REMONTOWA shipyard, in Gdansk.

My role as a captain is to ensure that all necessary measures in relation to the crew’s and ship’s safety and pollution prevention are taken and maintained at their highest levels.

I have further duties as the operations manager, supervising all operations for the maintenance of transoceanic cables carried out on board for ASN.

2 / What do you think of this new ASN ship operated by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs (concept, equipment, future operations, fleet, etc.)?

The addition of a new vessel to a company’s fleet is always a positive sign and the innovative concept of this conversion is in line with today’s expectations. The ship was no longer operated, not because it was outdated but as a consequence of the oil crisis. I think that adapting the use of a high-performing tool to a new activity is a unifying process for our teams. ASN’s ambition to carry out such projects is also a sign of their trust in LDA's technical and operational expertise.

ASN's aspiration, in partnership with LDA, to move things along in the maintenance market by investing in a recent repair ship with a reduced carbon footprint, is a strong signal - all the more so in the midst of an aging fleet consisting mainly of old cable laying ships.

3 / What will you take away from this great conversion project? Any anecdote or major fact?

Two moments will stand out for me.

The first dates back to October last year when we carried out the very first tests at sea off Dunkirk (mooring line tests, propeller pitch checks, etc.), shortly after the ship’s purchase and exit from cold stack. The ship was still in the colours of her former owner and there were only 12 of us on board.

The second one was 6 months later, when we arrived at LAS PALMAS with a full crew of 34 people to load telecommunication equipment and cables and start our maintenance work in the Atlantic zone within the APMA consortium.

FLORIAN ROQUETTE, CHIEF ENGINEER

1 / What has been your career path so far? Could you tell us more about your role on board ILE D’OUESSANT?

My name is Florian ROQUETTE and I have been an Engineer Officer for the past 13 years. I spent my last student years and my first missions as a Third Engineer on board Bröström Tankers Oil tankers, which involved several trips around the world. I joined Louis Dreyfus Armateurs in 2013 and the company soon entrusted me with the role of Chief Engineer on cable maintenance ship Ile d’Aix. I then spent two dreamlike years on the Marion Dufresne, with extraordinary journeys to the Southern Lands.

The adventure continued in May 2019 when I was offered by the Fleet Manager the position of Chief Engineer on Ile d'Ouessant. I took up my duties when the ship arrived in Dunkirk from England, where she had spent several years in cold stack. The conversion of the ship from PSV (Platform Supply Vessel) to cable maintenance ship was a very rewarding professional experience, a large-scale project rarely experienced through a full career in the Merchant Navy. From project kick-off and sea trials in October 2019, to final deployment of the ROV and cable equipment in Dunkirk in April 2020, it surely was an intense 5-month period (interspersed with a few days off!) at Remontowa’s shipyard in Gdansk.

The role of Chief Engineer is an all-encompassing position. I get involved in technical fields such as mechanics, electrics, automation, and hydraulics, but also in logistics with management and ordering of spare parts, and coordination of maintenance work. Human relationships are of course added to the mix and essential on board. And for a perfect alchemy, we have to ensure that work is done safely on a daily basis.

2 / What do you think of this new ASN ship operated by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs (concept, equipment, future operations, fleet, etc.)?

A new ship is always good news for a crew. In my opinion, this vessel breathes new life into LDA’s fleet of cable ships. Her age, size and features will undoubtedly open up new perspectives for our maintenance cable fleet. The concept is quite daring: it gives a second life to a derelict ship by creating just in a few months an operational cable ship.

Although the conversion has now been completed, we are eager for the last sea trials to confirm how successful this project has been.

3 / What will you take away from this great conversion project? Any anecdote or major fact?

I could easily speak of the great technical adventure it has been, where each problem had to be solved quickly, on a construction site teeming with thousands of people every day.

But I would rather remember the human adventure we experienced there, especially at the weekend. We seafarers love an adventure, which is why we went out every weekend to the same restaurant - at least, most of the time - which had undeniable benefits : a reserved table, a special welcome, French-speaking staff specifically hired by the restaurant and - last but not least - quality food and a great wine cellar.

All this made for great, relaxing moments at the weekend and helped kick-start the week in high spirits.

Clément Toupin, Lieutenant

1 / What has been your career path so far? Could you tell us more about your role on board ILE D’OUESSANT?

After preparatory class, I studied at the “Hydro” school (French Maritime Academy) in Marseille and Nantes between 2010 and 2017. I embarked on various LDA ships during this time (bulk carriers, ro-ro, cable ships), first as a student, then as a lieutenant. After my 5th year, I started to work on cable ships only, mainly in South East Asia.

I am now one of the 3 lieutenants on board Ile d’Ouessant. My role consists in keeping watch on the deck when the ship is in transit, as well as managing various departments (navigation, safety, etc.). When the ship is in operation, we take turns as DP (Dynamic Positioning) operators for a period of 12 hours. The position and course of the ship must be controlled very accurately. When the ship is docked, we manage various duties related to the stopover (delivery of equipment, crew changes, commercial operations, etc.).

2 / What do you think of this new ASN ship operated by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs (concept, equipment, future operations, fleet, etc.)?

The conversion of a supply vessel into a cable ship is a good thing for DP operators. The ship is DP2-classified, which means she has redundancy in several areas; this makes it much safer during operations because the loss of equipment will not result in loss of position. With two propeller shafts and four propellers, the ship is manœuverable and responsive. She has other positioning systems that cannot always be found on other ships: a fan beam and a beacon launching system from the bow through a gantry.

From the DP station, the operator has a clear view of the deck, which makes for better supervision of the operations and their progress.

The ship is well equipped, especially for repair works. The two cable machines, two tugger winches and wide deck make for simpler and safer handling of the cable and ropes. The underwater robot’s gantry and its self-supporting umbilical cable allow for rapid launching. Much less staff is involved in these risky operations, which is another good point.

What makes this ship special, however, is a 49-ton offshore crane. It will be interesting to see what potential future operations it may be involved in.

3 / What will you take away from this great conversion project? Any anecdote or major fact?

Participating in the handling of a ship, even belatedly - I embarked on the Ile d’Ouessant well after the technical stop in Poland - is an enriching process. There are still many things to implement and to polish. We are all trying to bring in the experience gained from working on other vessels and other cable ships.

François Marilly, Subsea Operator

1 / What has been your career path so far? Could you tell us more about your role on board ILE D’OUESSANT?

I hold a diploma in Electrical Engineering from the University Institute of Technology in Le Havre, as well as certificates in Electronics & Systems and as an Electro-technical Officer from the ENSM (French Maritime Academy) of Saint-Malo.

I am a subsea operator. My role consists in maintaining and repairing the underwater robot - also known as ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) - and in looking after the ROV launch and recovery systems. I also operate the robot when in use for laying or repairing subsea cables.

This is an exciting and multi-faceted role, requiring different skills to ensure the best possible maintenance of the subsea service system. This system is a complex combination of electricity, electronics, automation, IT and hydraulics.

The ROV is also called a trencher, in reference to the trenches it must dig to bury the telecommunication cables underneath the sea floor for protection from external aggressions (anchors, fishing nets, landslides…). The robot is equipped with mechanical arms as well, to handle and cut off the cable when necessary.

2 / What do you think of this new ASN ship operated by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs (concept, equipment, future operations, fleet, etc.)?

This new vessel is an encouraging message from ASN, showing a commitment to renew their cable ship fleet to meet the ever-changing demand in submarine telecommunications cables worldwide. The Ile d’Ouessant has replaced the ship Peter Faber, which operated successfully for many years in the Atlantic Ocean - a very large area to cover - but reached its limits in certain weather conditions, especially winter storms.

With her heavier tonnage, the Ile d'Ouessant should cope better in such situations and will rely on increased dynamic positioning capabilities, as well as newer cable machines.

The equipment dedicated to the ROV is of good quality and allows for safe and efficient operations.

3 / What will you take away from this great conversion project? Any anecdote or major fact?

I came on board in early February 2020, when the ship was still at the Remontova shipyard in Gdansk, Poland. A lot of work still had to be done. Departure was a month away and at this stage in the project, things were going faster to include last changes and finishing touches. Eveything seemed to happen at the same time.

You have to adapt to the sometimes-harsh weather conditions in winter, especially in Poland. We found ourselves in unusual situations, having to work out uncommon solutions such as heating oil that had become too viscous in the cold, to be integrated into the bearing system of a hydraulic motor on deck.

We also provided guidance to the shipyard personnel, who sometimes did not start a task exactly as planned. There was this time when we were presented with the 40-ton ROV crane on its final location on board, in reverse position. We had to explain how the crane was to be operated and asked them to change its position back to how it should be.

Generally speaking, the time spent aboard the boat in the shipyard was very interesting and stimulating. We could not wait to take to the sea again, though. We were eager to see and feel how the ship would adapt and react at sea, facing waves and winds, especially after a conversion as major as this one. It is, after all, quite rare for a supply vessel to turn into a cable ship.

GILDAS RIBAU, CABLE SHIP OFFICER

1 / What has been your career path so far? Could you tell us more about your role on board ILE D’OUESSANT?

I joined the French Maritime Academy in 2007. My first boarding was on the ILE DE BREHAT the following winter, in the North Atlantic. I worked on board different LDA ships during my student years (cable ships, ro-ro ships, bulk carriers, seismic research vessels…). When I obtained my certificate, I first took a position as a lieutenant on a private yacht in Asia and returned to LDA as a Bulk Engineer Officer. Afterwards I worked on the seismic research ship CGG ALIZE for 3 years. I was appointed as a Cable ship Officer in 2016 on the ILE D’AIX and I have the same position on the new cable ship ILE D'OUESSANT.

This role consists in liaising with the deck, where cable operations are carried out, and the gangway, where the ship is positioned in DP, during cable-laying and cable maintenance operations. It is one of the rare positions in the "modern" merchant navy where we can still be close to natural elements and where seamanship is paramount.

2 / What do you think of this new ASN ship operated by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs (concept, equipment, future operations, fleet, etc.)?

This conversion offers an adjustable cable ship, which flexibility will be valuable to future operations. As a crew member, I think it has been a very enriching project because the transforming works and refits in particular went with a lot of technical material to assimilate and adapt to the objectives to be achieved.

Given the state of the oil market at the moment, we can only be happy to be able to convert powerful and manoeuverable supply vessels into cable ships in the medium term. Schedules are tight and the addition of a new cable ship to a fleet is always a plus.

3 / What will you take away from this great conversion project? Any anecdote or major fact?

Such a conversion requires a significant investment from all staff members on board and ashore. Sharing our knowledge and experience is necessary to be truly effective. A recurring question on board was how to define the moment when the supply ship actually turned into a cable ship.

Some spoke of the day when the tank was finished, others of the day when the sheaves (pulley wheels at the stern of the ship) were installed, or the day when the sea trials were deemed successful. I have my own idea on the subject, but to each their own!