The Local Face Of A Multi-National Underwater Connector Company
It began 45 years ago in California, but today SEACON has 19 dedicated technicians serving the oil and gas industry
In 1968 SEACON started manufacturing underwater electrical connectors in El Cajon, near San Diego California, USA. Over the years it became apparent that in addition to assembling connectors in-house there was an ever-growing need to service, repair and install connectors in the field.
As the company expanded, today the company’s six plants are located in five countries, not only were new connectors developed specifically for installation in the field, but each plant provided its own field service technicians. Ultimately, it became clear that with customers scattered throughout the world’s oceans, it made the greatest economic sense to centralise the field service function. So in 2008 Field Services became its own department in the company’s Bellville, Texas, base near Houston, starting out with three technicians trained in the factory to repair and reterminate field installable cable/connector unions at the customer site.
Technician trimming the subsea mux umbilical to prepare for installation of the Armour Termination Assembly (ATA). The ATA is a separate break point for the cable termination to preserve the integrity of the pod during excessive pull.
Today SEACON has 19 dedicated technicians; 16 operate out of Bellville and 3 are based in Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Many more in-house technicians can be called on as needed at other SEACON locations. They answer trouble calls from rig operators needing help with repair of damaged cables and connectors in the shortest possible timeframe, because holding up drilling operations can cost operators hundreds of thousands of dollars per day.
That is why SEACON’s elite technical personnel keep ‘go’ bags with them so they can be enroute to the airport at very short notice and be working in the Gulf of Mexico within a few hours, Singapore within 30 hours, or Australia within 48 hours from receiving a call. In 2008 SEACON technicians performed four to six field terminations per month; five years later that number has grown tenfold. Technicians are deployed worldwide, depending on the current location of the closest available technician when a call comes in, and surge requirements are handled the same way.
A typical SEACON technician has a minimum of two-year’ experience, often starting on in-house manufacturing, and is qualified through a company training program on a range of connectors. This can include hundreds of variations, electrical, fibre-optic, wet-mate, dry-mate, pressure balanced oil filled, to provide oil and gas industry connections for BOP/MUX drilling control, production control, Christmas Tree, and downhole systems.
Most callouts are the result of cable issues resulting from damage by drill string riser pipe ‘bird caging’ of the cable. In a typical repair the technician disassembles the old connector and reterminates using a repair kit matched to that specific cable.
Managing a global response team involves juggling a surprising number of administrative factors of a bureaucratic, medical, or professional nature. Each technician has as many as 100 discrete items requiring back-office attention – from visas, yellow fever shots and medical certificates to Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET), a 4-day safety and lifesaving training program. Communication is essential, and SEACON Field Services promotes a collegial, cross-fertilising atmosphere within the department, even at lunchtime where discussions can range from a new connector design to airport security or even family parenting issues.
Technician removing the stainless steel strength members from a subsea MUX umbilical to set the cable gripping cones. The cones provide the primary locking point to hold the connector onto the cable.
Supporting the market to this extent takes a committed team of professionals who are prepared to go the extra mile, and it is not only SEACON that appreciates this. Below are comments received from customers:“I can’t stress enough our appreciation for getting the techs mobilized so quickly in this rig down situation.” “The response from SEACON has been very good when requesting short delivery time for spare parts. The technician has proven to be excellent at providing a great deal of support and commitment to helping the rig. This has been very much appreciated by myself and colleagues and certainly does not go unnoticed. Thank you for all your assistance.”
SEACON is looking into the economic viability of pre-positioning geographically strategically located caches of connectors and other essential supplies. This would result in significant customer savings due to more rapid response and resulting reduced rig downtime. In the meantime, the company strives to provide on-site connector expertise in the shortest practical time, anywhere in the world.