The Marine Consultancy and Surveying business is diverse to say the least. Many consultants and surveyors have progressed through the marine industry via purely academic routes, whilst others have progressed in a 'hands on' manner throughout.
In 1976, I joined Kuwait Shipping Company as an Engineering Cadet Officer. The first two years of my training as a cadet were spent at Riversdale College of Technology, Liverpool. I successfully achieved the City and Guilds of London Institute certificate in all subjects in Marine Engineering.
In the summer of 1978, I joined my first vessel, The M.V. ‘Al Rumaithiah’. By this time, Kuwait Shipping Co., had changed names to United Arab Shipping Co., and was a considerably larger organisation owned primarily by the governments of various Arabian Gulf States (Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq).
The M.V. ‘Al Rumaithiah’ was a geared general cargo vessel powered by a single slow speed Burmeister & Wain type crosshead engine. The vessel had earlier been converted to accommodate up to 16 deck and engine cadets, and whilst reasonably devoid of modern technology, the vessel was an extremely good ship to begin a career at sea, insofar as basic principles of Marine Engineering and the failure of mechanical and structural components was an everyday occurrence.
After serving as cadet on rather more modern vessels than the ‘Al Rumaithiah’, I returned to Riversdale College of Technology in September 1979, and in June 1980 successfully passed the Advanced City and Guilds of London Institute examinations.
Between 1980 and 1987, I served with United Arab Shipping Company rising to the rank of Fourth Engineer, with a short spell as Third Engineer. I gained my 2nd Class Certificate of Competency in 1984, following a short spell at Liverpool Polytechnic. During the 11 years with Kuwait Shipping Co/United Arab Shipping Company, I gained considerable ‘hands on’ experience with the operation and maintenance of slow speed main engines and medium speed auxiliary engines. Additionally, I had considerable experience working with fuels and associated plant including purifiers, pumping and bunkering systems.
In 1987, I came ashore and joined The Seaforth Group of Companies, as a ship repair manager, based in Liverpool, Merseyside. The position involved estimating and managing various types of repairs onboard ships, including steel repairs and machinery repairs. In May of that year I acted in the capacity of Assistant Ship Repair Manager during the repair and refit of two large Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, The ‘RFA Diligence’ and the ‘RFA Sir Percival’.
Unfortunately, The Seaforth Group of Companies ceased trading in October 1987, and I therefore elected to continue my career at sea, and joined The Ocean Group of Companies. I was based in Mexico and seconded to a number of large ocean going tugs and supply vessels, sailing initially as Second Engineer, and then as Chief Engineer until September 1988. During periods of leave, I was involved in the reactivation and delivery as Second and Chief Engineer of a number of vessels including the container vessel ‘Atlantic Causeway’ and the dedicated steel coil / bulk carrier ‘Lysaght Enterprise’.
I then felt that I needed to progress my career, and as the tug and supply vessels introduced me to the Oil and Gas industry, I decided to undertake a position on a contract basis with Hydrocarbons Great Britain (British Gas Offshore Development). I was employed as a Maintenance Engineer on the British Gas Irish Sea Platform between October 1988 and May 1989. The position was interesting, in that I was introduced to gas turbines and high pressure plant, together with the production plant, automation systems and electrical control systems associated with transfer of Natural Gas from sub-sea level to reception facilities ashore.
I was then offered the position as Third Engineer onboard a semi-submersible offshore drilling platform. I remained on Semi-Submersible Platforms until October 1991, having served as Second Engineer, and then Chief Engineer once I had gained my 1st Class Certificate of Competency.
Having spent many years at sea and in the offshore industry, I decided to review my career, and I decided to consider the longevity and advancement of my career rather than the short term but high earnings view. I therefore applied for a number of positions ashore. I was offered a position as a Classification Society Surveyor and also a position as Engineering Superintendent. However, having enjoyed my earlier short employment as a Ship Repair Manager, I accepted a position with the ship repair and ship construction company, Wright and Beyer Co. Ltd. The position was based on Merseyside, and the company had extensive steel fabrication workshops, fitting and machine shops, electrical workshops and pipe fitting workshops. Additionally, the company had a large dry-dock facility capable of docking vessels up to 200 metres in length, and access to larger dry-docks capable of handling vessels up to 240 metres in length.
I was employed as a Ship Repair Manager for 5 years and during that time I managed over 100 medium to large ship repair and refit projects. The projects involved extensive hull repairs following collisions and fires, general steel repairs and modification, Main Engine removal and renewal, crankshaft repair and renewal, pipework renewal and modification, electrical system installation etc. I was also required to estimate and submit tenders for certain projects, one of which included the major repair and refit of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel ‘RFA Sir Galahad’.
In January 1996 I was approached by a Netherlands based firm of Marine Surveyors & Consultants, and was asked to operate and manage the recently acquired Liverpool based Marine Surveying and Consultancy, Casebourne & Turner. My father was the senior partner with T.R. Little & Co., who were also based in the city of Liverpool, and I had always intended on being involved with a similar company.
The company was based in The Royal Liver Building and accepted various types of Marine Surveying instructions from clients worldwide. Primarily the surveys were from Hull and Machinery underwriters and/or The Salvage Association. I was made Partner in July 1996, and with a staff of four in the Liverpool office.
The Hull and Machinery Insurance premium deductibles increased considerably during the late 1990’s and the number of insurance claims were steadily decreasing. It was therefore necessary to diversify slightly and to pursue P&I (Protection and Indemnity) insurance instructions, together with instructions directly from ship owners. I pursued this course of marketing and successfully gained a large number of clients in the P&I and ship owning sector of the industry. The instructions were initially all Engineering based and involved worldwide travel, and included collisions, bunker quality disputes, machinery damage and recovery from third parties, and shiprepairers negligence disputes. I was appointed by a New Orleans based ship owner to attend onboard a number of vessels worldwide, and to assess the condition of the steel structure within the holds and ballast tanks and to advise the extent of steel renewal that would be required at the next special survey period. The vessels were primarily LASH vessels, but also Capesize Bulk Carriers, Cement Carriers and Car Carriers. I was required to produce detailed repair specifications and to oversee repairs in Singapore, New Orleans and San Diego.
Whilst initially the instructions received were primarily Engineering based, I was often requested to undertake investigations regarding cargo damage such as ingress of water, or contamination. Additionally, I was increasingly being asked to consider Metallurgical aspects of a mechanical failure. Whilst I certainly felt qualified and experienced enough to accept engineering instructions, I was reluctant to offer expert opinion on such matters as cargo damage and Metallurgical assessment of fatigue failures etc. I therefore elected to sub contract such work to experts in those fields.
In 1999, I was approached by another marine surveying and consultancy organisation, Taylor & Co (Marine) Ltd., and was asked to join, with a view to becoming a director within a short period. Essentially, the company was owned equally by two directors, and together with one other cargo surveyor and two administration staff, they had a small but loyal client base. The two directors were former deck officers with second officers qualifications, and accordingly the instructions undertaken were predominantly cargo based insurance and P&I claims, with the occasional cases involving navigational issues. The turnover of the company in 1999 was sufficiently high enough for the directors at that time.
I agreed to join the company as Engineering Director in 1999. Within a year of joining the company, we had increased turnover significantly. The engineering side of the company was extremely successful and therefore a Metallurgist was recruited as Director and an additional Engineer Surveyor was recruited. A Master Mariner was also recruited and in May 2004, the company acquired T.R. Little & Co. In keeping with almost 100 years of business, the name of the company changed to Taylor Marine TR Little.
In May 2006, I established Findlay Marine Ltd. It is now 10 years since I started the company and over that period I have developed an extremely diverse and very loyal client base, ranging from shipowners, charterers, P&I clubs, Law Firms, brokers and H&M underwriters. My policy is to provide open and honest advice in all cases.
I travel extensively and I am probably out of the UK for three months a year. I prefer to physically sight and examine damage to a vessel or its machinery, review original documentation myself and discuss matters with ship's staff, rather than receive second or third hand reports and then have to bring together all information at a later stage.
I am frequently called to give oral evidence in arbitration and high court matters, but I maintain the stance that I will never stray outside of my own expertise. If the need arises I will call upon expert metallurgists, fuel chemists and Master Mariners.