The new Marine Offshore Floating Hub, the first of its kind in the world, has revolutionized the way offshore rigs are supplied.
Tanajib port is a hive of activity. Forklifts come and go and spin around the dock with precision in what looks like a well-rehearsed waltz.
Ships wait in line to be restocked with supplies, from drilling equipment to mud tanks for the critical drilling operations taking place deep in Gulf waters offshore. Some of the world’s largest oil and gas fields lie beyond the blue horizon. Everything here has to be well rehearsed, because having these critical supplies arrive on time to their assigned rigs keeps production in these huge fields running smoothly, 24/7.
There is no room for error; Saudi Aramco depends on these offshore rigs receiving crew and supplies on time, otherwise there could be costly shutdowns. What we see is an example of logistics at its most fine-tuned and an environment where efficiency and teamwork means everything.
Unique Offshore Hub
Tanajib Port, which services offshore rigs and is a crucial hub for the company’s drilling operations, has transformed the way it operates to maximize efficiency, safety and reliability as part of an innovative transformation of Saudi Aramco’s Marine business model.
The idea to float a Marine Offshore Floating Hub in the form of the Rawabi Integrity — a huge rededicated oil tanker — has revolutionized the way offshore rigs are supplied. Its decks are stocked with all of the supplies and equipment to keep offshore rigs running smoothly, saving time and costly round trips to port for vessels.
The unique concept has been realized after three years of extensive collaboration between Marine and Drilling. It is the first of its kind in the world and presents a paradigm shift in the way offshore logistics operations are managed.
As a result of the Marine Offshore Floating Hub functioning as a mini-Tanajib Pier, 70 nautical miles (130 kilometers) offshore, the onshore pier has significantly been de-clogged and the deployment of boats to rigs is optimized, creating significant savings for the company.
The Marine Logistics Department’s office mobilizes all of this activity together and ensures that everything from shore to rigs operates seamlessly. What is most impressive is that a good measure of the weight of responsibility is shouldered by young Saudi talent, entrusted, empowered and mentored by their management team to carry out these critical tasks around the clock.
At the age of 36, Abdulaziz S. Abuali oversees a young team of planners, shippers and loadmasters. He explains the role and the unexpected challenges often faced by the team.
“My day job is a senior planner and a senior planner’s duties are to supervise the other planners and to make sure that we are always giving the customer the best service that we can and exceed their expectations.
“Marine Logistics started in 2013 to extend the offshore supply for drilling offshore rigs. Basically, we received work requests through the SAP system and we processed every request with a particular category, according to whether it was an emergency or a normal request. We always look at the drilling and the drilling operations and their requirements in case they have a specific operation that requires additional support.”
All in A Day’s Work
Without the hard work of young Saudi talent and others, the deployment of the new Marine Offshore Floating Hub in Tanajib could not have been accomplished. Abuali says that for the young Saudi team, the new business model with the deployment of the Marine Offshore Floating Hub is a unique opportunity to learn and flourish in a culture of teamwork.
“It is really a great experience for the young Saudi talent. I have learned a lot here. For them, it is really a golden opportunity at their age to gain knowledge of all of these processes of offshore drilling and the processes of different logistics. This extended offshore operation really is a great opportunity for them.”
Sultan S. Al Ghamdi, planner, age 26
“I work as a planner preparing boats that are loading the cargo for rigs depending on their requirements. They request normal or emergency requests and each one has a time frame.
“Then we arrange the boat and we plan to put the cargo in the particular boat for the rig, because each rig has different requirements. Some rigs need a deep boat. That means that the boat can hold position by itself without dropping anchor. We assign the boats, depending on the weather, depending on the location of the rigs, the deck space of the boats and the requirement quantities.
“Things are managed better with the hub and we can also deliver over a short time frame — instead of eight to 10 hours, we can deliver in 90 minutes. We keep the hub as a storage area, which is the same as the pier area here, except it is offshore. Also, we always top up the hub.
“We have a senior planner in each group. We try to plan in detail if we have something complicated and the senior planner will advise us. All of the planners have worked on each shift and we discuss together, for example, if we need to get a boat from another zone to assist us.
“The senior planner also approves every step that we take. The senior planners and other planners support us. It’s very much a matter of teamwork. We live here as a family, we assist each other and every day we learn a new lesson.”
Bander Al-Mansour, shipper, age 23
“I started here as a loadmaster — it was a little hard because it was the first time we experienced this. Now we find it easier and all of our colleagues in the drilling tool house are very cooperative. They are helping us too. Then I moved on to start as a shipper after around one year.
“We receive cargo from the planners and when that is finished we make sure that the boat is alongside the station, which we see through the live line on screens. Then we proceed to the rig’s receiving area and confirm the availability of all of the cargo and consult the drilling tool house to approve the material and then we send it direct to the boat-loading station.
“It has all been a good experience and we are coordinating with many companies from around the world. We are experiencing different materials, every time we learn something new. Everything depends on collaboration and cooperation and that’s what everyone does here.”
Muqbil Al Shammari, loadmaster, age 24
“I started here in September 2013. I have gained a lot of experience with this unit. I feel that my customer care skills have improved a lot and I have developed a lot in other areas. My experience and development has accelerated since I have been here.
“My job starts when I receive the load plans from the shipper. I plan for the station for the particular vessel and I make sure that the vessel is ready to load and the captain is informed and that we have a copy of the load plan so we can prepare his vessel.
“After the cargo arrives at the station, I have to cross-check the load plan against the cargo that is present at the station to make sure that there is no missing cargo or unsafe cargo to load.
“When we start loading, we have to make sure that the vehicles and the people at the station are fully safe and wearing their full Personal Protection Equipment. After the loading is complete, we cross-check the cargo again with Drilling to verify it and issue the shipping manifest to the tool house and hand over the ship manifest to the dispatcher so that he can instruct the vessel to cast off and travel to its location.
“As a unit, and as individual groups, we all work as one team.”
Sultan M. Al Qahtani, dispatcher/sea bus coordinator, age 24
“I have been with Marine Logistics for three years, since the beginning of this project. I have been with the Marine Department for four years, and Saudi Aramco five years.
“A dispatcher’s main duties involve monitoring the vessels’ movement in the field. We have a dashboard, which is updated and we make sure that for each vessel here in Tanajib, the loading operation takes only 7.5 to 10 hours.
“We immediately contact a senior planner to inform him about things and he will accept the vessel operation. The dashboard needs to be updated constantly with the vessel numbers, times, and the monitoring of the vessels’ movement in the field.
“With the sea bus service, it’s a new service here, as we take over from the Aviation Department the transportation of more than 50% of rig crew changes at Marjan, Zuluf, and Safaniyah oil fields. We have two taxi boats and we escort them to the station.
“There is a lot of responsibility and a lot of teamwork. We make sure that we all work together and work for our customers. We work for our customers’ satisfaction.”
Saleh A. Al Ghamdi, shipper/planner, age 25
“I used to work with Logistics; I was there for two years and I started as a load master. We dealt with the cargo that would be loaded from the station at Tanajib Pier. I would verify and make sure that everything was correct and make the shipment and the ship manifest. This would then be delivered back to the planner.
“After we locate the materials, we have to ask for forklifts and loaders and the transportation that we need to deliver the cargo from its area to the receiving station. I am now a trainee planner. There are many challenges. We have to verify everything to make sure that all of the equipment is correct and that nothing is missed because if there are any missed items we would be responsible for any shutdown of the rigs.
“For the shipper, the main challenge is to locate the material and deliver it to the station on time. We have 12 hours, but in reality we have a maximum of eight hours from the boat’s arrival at Tanajib.
“For the planner, the main challenge is the communication between three parties, which are the contractors, the rigs, and also the people around us from Drilling. We have to be specific, we have to find a time for planning to run the day and to run the operation.
“I have learned a lot about teamwork and working under pressure and have also enhanced my communication skills — both my writing ability and improving my English.”
While the introduction of an unparalleled and unique asset like the Hub to Saudi Aramco offshore operations is a tremendous achievement, the development and integration of the young Saudi workforce to operate such an asset is also worthy of recognition.
The company’s future is in our youth and Saudi Aramco seeks to ensure that they have the right tools and training to meet the challenges — both for the benefit of Saudi Aramco and the Kingdom at large.