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Marine Compliance Finds Home with the Equipment Department

Two people at a marine yard in Seattle.
Lisa Miller, Document Control Officer (left) and Andrew O'Brien, Marine Compliance Manager (right), represent the Seattle division of Manson's Marine Compliance group.

Manson owns and operates one of the nation’s largest marine construction and dredging fleets, which means a lot of moving parts to track and maintain. We have equipment located across the country – not just at our five marine yards, but at projects spread out anywhere there is an accessible coastline. Manson has even taken on jobs further inland, increasing the reach of our equipment, such as the City of Austin Water Treatment Plant project on the virtually landlocked Lake Travis in Texas, or the I-35 St. Anthony Falls Bridge Replacement project in Minneapolis, MN.

No matter where our equipment is headed, though, it requires documentation, and some locations’ compliance requirements are more stringent than others. As Federal regulations evolve and individual state requirements differ from one another, it can be quite the juggling act to ensure compliance. Eventually, it became apparent that a more formal system was required in order to keep up. Thus, the inception of Manson’s Marine Compliance group – a group that straddles the line between safety and equipment, as their work contains aspects of both.

“For years, when a vessel was slated for movement to a new location, there was enough collective knowledge about what needed to be done to get it ready for the voyage,” says Andrew O’Brien, Manson’s Marine Compliance Manager. “The equipment group would hear a vessel is moving and they just knew what needed to get done.”

The Marine Compliance group now oversees the documentation and functionality of Manson’s Towing Vessel Management System (TVMS), which includes 10 towing vessels, as well as the Safety Management System (SMS), which oversees Manson’s three self-propelled hopper dredges. Both of these systems ensure the safety of personnel on board the vessel, the environment, and the safe operation of the equipment. While the TVMS is a relatively new system that is implemented by several Vessel Operations Managers and Port Engineers, the SMS is an older system that has recently undergone a thorough update.

“It was really Ivan Kochnev who completely rewrote the entire SMS, making sure all of the vessel-specific plans were developed with the vessel captains and then implemented,” Andrew says. As the Designated Person Ashore (DPA), Ivan works with the SMS, acting as a link between the personnel on the hoppers and everyone on the shore side, including management. “He really makes sure that the SMS functions properly, while Lisa Miller, who is the Document Control Officer, and I make sure the program is always up and running so they have the tools they need to work.”

These systems also help to maintain U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) required plans for all Manson vessels, such as Non-Tank Vessel Response Plans (NTVRP) and Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plans (SOPEP). A long list of regulatory certifications and records, such as Certificates of Inspection (COI), Certificate of Financial Responsibility (COFR), OSHA Crane Certifications, and dry docking reports, also fall under the Marine Compliance group.

“Lisa and I were recently moved from the safety department to officially be part of the equipment department since our work is very intertwined with what they do and functions as a support for them,” Andrew explains.

Now that they’ve settled into their home, the small team has been working on fine-tuning their systems. “One of the challenges we face is taking a more centralized look at what needs to be done as opposed to in the past where different departments handled their part,” Lisa explains.

While much of what the group does is manage documentation, they’re also interested in streamlining the processes and finding a better way.

“It has always been the case that the right personnel knew what was going on or found out what needed to be done, but now we’re asking the question, ‘Well, can we do it better?’ Should there be a formal process or procedure?” Andrew says. The group is creating a SharePoint site, making that information more accessible for all the Manson employees who need it. Everything from Merchant Mariner Credentials to monthly Preventative Maintenance Inspections, or specific information required by different regulatory agencies such as the USCG or OSHA.

"The implementation of the new SharePoint site aligns with one of Manson’s core values of finding a better way because it’s more organized, accessible, and we won’t have to rely on just one person to find what we need,” Lisa says.

Andrew likens the site to an internal equipment catalog.

“The SharePoint site will gather the vast amount of plans, procedures, and documentation and provide them in an easily accessible and understandable format. This will also notify us and the port engineer in charge of the vessel whenever an expiration date is coming up so that there is plenty of time to take action.” The new site also goes hand-in-hand with creating workflows and procedures for vessel movements, so there is a step-by-step process that anyone, be it a long-time Manson veteran or a brand new employee, could follow to ensure all the T’s have been crossed and I’s dotted.

Whenever a piece of Manson equipment is scheduled to move from one state to the next, the Marine Compliance group checks that proper documentation is in place and coordinates with both the Equipment Department and the Contracts Department.

“We’re pretty much tied at the hip with equipment and contracts,” Andrew says.

If a vessel is slated to move – for example from Washington to California – it may have to undergo specific maintenance or inspections to become compliant with California’s more stringent environmental requirements. The Marine Compliance group verifies that California regulatory documents are applied for and valid, then that’s where the rest of the equipment department comes in.

Nationwide, Manson hires a number of craft workers who support the maintenance and efficiency of our vessels and equipment. In our marine yards, you may find a mechanic overhauling a 15-ton winch, or a welder fabricating a new housing that will be used to upgrade a derrick barge.

One of the elements of compliance that is a continual discussion is that of vessel repowering.

“There are federal, state, and regional requirements for exhaust emissions on diesel engines,” explains Brad Martin, Manson Vice President and Equipment Manager. “You have to meet certain levels of those emissions each year in a goal to reduce overall exhaust emissions in the construction industry.” While the Federal government has created its own tiered system that applies to engines of different ages and powers at different times, a vessel may have to undergo repowering even sooner in order to meet state, or even regional, requirements.

“California has certain state requirements and then there are different air districts regionally. For example, San Diego may have different specifications compared to Los Angeles or San Francisco,” Brad explains. “Re-powering the fleet is honestly a yearly discussion on what’s coming due for replacement, in what area.” That’s where the Marine Compliance group’s new SharePoint site comes into play.

The site will allow Manson to quickly identify what requirements are in place in any given location and determine which vessels meet those requirements or need to undergo maintenance, overhaul, or other permitting.

That said, Manson likes to stay ahead of the requirements, maintaining permits for a vessel or completing the maintenance even when it’s not necessary at the time. The Equipment Department also works closely with the Operations group to make sure the work gets done during downtime in order to maintain the most efficient scheduling possible. In this way, if a vessel needs to move quickly for a job, there are no delays.

“We want to get maximum return on the cost of the engine,” Brad says. “We want to be compliant and we want to remain market competitive.”

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