International Marine Contractors Association

The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) represents offshore, marine and underwater engineering companies. Today with more than 600 members spanning 52 countries throughout the globe, IMCA has come a long way in its near 15 year existence.

The association was formed in 1995 from two previous trade associations: The Dynamically Positioned Vessel Operators Association (DPVOA) which was formed in 1990, and the Association of Offshore Diving Contractors (AODC) which began in 1972. Common membership and work programmes saw these associations merge to form IMCA in 1995.

“They came together and formed IMCA with a good constitution and a good structure which has served us well” IMCA Chief Executive Hugh Williams says. “Since 1995 membership has grown more than four-fold and focus has widened to encompass all aspects of marine construction, disciplines and geographies.”

Williams joined IMCA in 2002. His extensive background in the industry began when he trained as a chartered civil engineer in dock and harbour design and site supervision work. From then on his diverse experience has allowed him a comprehensive perspective over the different aspects of the wider marine contracting industry which IMCA supports. Williams worked at Noble Denton and specialised in marine operations, in particular heavy lift crane operations.

“Firstly, IMCA writes a lot of guidelines which is similar to part of my role at Noble Denton” he says.

He also worked as a Business Development Manager for Heerema Marine Contractors, UK. “The guidelines we write are for marine contracting which is what Heerema does” Williams explains.

“And also in terms of the member companies of IMCA, every company I’ve ever worked for or worked alongside or consulted with or met on a project somewhere or another, just about every company, is a member of IMCA so I’m amongst all my old friends and contemporaries doing the sort of work that they do while we at IMCA try to help them.”

IRJ caught up with Williams to hear all about IMCA’s latest focus area of geographical development: Central & South America, and their continued efforts towards “enhancing the Common Marine Inspection Document (CMID), updating various diving documents and encouraging the spread of our competence framework” throughout the world.

IMCA’s New Central & South America Section
Williams recalls joining in IMCA in 2002 and explains that they had “sections in the Middle East & India, and another in the Far East which we called Asia-Pacific.”

He explains that each section had quarterly meetings for their members to gather together. “One of the things we particularly wanted to do was to get started in North America, particularly in Houston. So back in 2002 we started what we called the Americas Deepwater Section. We had a number of members there already and this meant that they could meet locally, instead of before when it was expected that they would attend wherever we happened to hold an international meeting. In doing this we realized that it seemed like Europe wasn’t represented. We didn’t want Europe to be thought of as head office because that would be quite the wrong way to think of this international organization. Despite the fact our secretariat is based in London – we aren’t European orientated – far from it!”

To balance this out across the globe, from late 2002 IMCA had four sections which corresponded to the geographic time zones: Americas Deepwater, Europe and Africa, Middle East & India and Asia- Pacific.

“That worked very well” Williams says. “Then last year we took a very close look and said ‘it’s all very well having an American section, but people in South America don’t travel to Houston for their quarterly meetings with us, it’s too far.’

“IMCA split their Americas section into North America and Central & South America on June 1 2009. “Our initial focus in this new section is fundamentally on Rio and Brazil” Williams says. “We’re building up this section. We’ve been over for meetings and we will have our annual seminar there in November. This section is
extremely important to us. Firstly, there’s a huge industry offshore of Brazil and we already have lots of IMCA members based or working there. Also in this curious economic time, Petrobras is one of the few big companies that is actually still investing which is very good, so there’s lots of work going on despite the financial crisis. There is a tremendous focus on offshore construction in Brazil at the moment and that’s one of the areas we really want to build up.”

Williams explains that “in a place like Brazil, international contractors integrate with local contractors. Up until now all of the projects in Brazil have been Petrobras projects but now they will be integrated with international clients too. So there’s both client and contractor integration occurring whilst the geographical distances also encourage companies to joint-venture in the region. Petrobras and Brazil have developed some of the most sophisticated deepwater projects in the world today so there is a lot of learning, knowledge and technological integration set to take place both ways, out of and into the region, as international
companies begin to get involved there.”

This is where IMCA excels. They are an international trade association and they publish their own guidelines of good practise. These cover, as far as possible, all aspects of marine construction in all parts of the world. “If gaps are identified we try to plug them.”

IMCA Crafting, Shaping & Developing Guidelines
Williams explains that while structurally decisions such as the creation of their Central & South America Section come from IMCA’s management committee, their technical committees follow this up with ongoing technical work programmes aimed at progressing their side of these advancements. To cover the wide and intricate guidelines IMCA supports, develops and publishes, we need only look at some recent projects.

“One particularly interesting one is the Common Marine Inspection Document (CMID) and we have done a lot of work on ROVs and competencies this year too. We publish about 20 new guidelines a year but these are good examples” Williams says.

“The new CMID document (IMCA M 149 Issue 7), now available from IMCA, has been thoroughly reviewed and rewritten, with clearer structure; the previous subjectivity removed in the questions; and incorporating updates to reflect technological, operational and regulatory developments. It now provides additional guidance on inspector competence” IMCA’s August dated press release says.

Now IMCA is looking at developing the electronic version or ‘e-CMID.’ These developments and more are all available at www.imca-int.com/cmid.

In August this year IMCA published new IMCA Guidance on Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Operations.

“This is a good example of the work we do. The word ‘ROV’ in the title could be supplanted by vessel, a dynamically positioned vessel, a crane or a diving system and that’s what we write about, essentially it’s the safe and efficient use of some marine contracting equipment or system. It’s a high level guideline for an operations procedure. This usually includes something about personnel, training and competence and also something about the equipment itself such as what
standard the equipment should be built to, how it should be maintained, how it should be tested, how strong it should be and so on. Each of those three subjects: the personnel, the equipment and the procedure are in this ROV document.”

Williams explains that “communication is key at IMCA,” not only with members and non-members in the industry but in their successful media profile and promotion, and the collaborative process involved in crafting these guidelines.

“If it is a new document we will ask members if they have their own procedures in place and create a joint guideline from our various different member companies and promote this as being ‘good practise’ for everybody,” Williams says.

“That’s how we go about writing a new document. This one (the use of ROVs) is simply an update via our technical committee who are the experts on these areas. We work with any feedback we’ve had on previous versions, and try to make sure that the new version covers all angles. By doing this through our technical committees, through our users and through the clients as well, we are confident that we are keeping the content up to date and abreast of technology and practise.”

IMCA Tomorrow
Perhaps the easiest way to comprehend the vast scale of IMCA’s work is to look at their efforts both structurally and technically as Williams has explained. There is no denying their worldwide reach and their continued work to include their members from both the most central locations to the far-flung corners of the globe. Equally admirable is the emphasis on technical excellence and as Williams says “an IMCA guideline has to do exactly what it says on the tin”.

IMCA’s latest focus on the Central & South America Section is an exciting development for any company in the region and for the safety and efficiency of the local marine contracting industry as a whole. IMCA is ready to rise to any challenge, support and work alongside its members and continue to aid growth and development in the guidelines, communications and practise within the marine contracting industry.

On November 4-5, IMCA is holding their annual seminar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This year the theme is ‘Integrated Marine Operations in Challenging Times’.

IMCA’s press release promises ‘plenary sessions and separate parallel sessions on marine, diving and ROV/offshore survey, reflecting the diverse range of operations carried out by the marine contracting industry. There are parallel workshops on a variety of topical and relevant issues, as well as the associated exhibition of supplier members and variety of social and networking events’ and a detailed breakdown of events, services, locations and contact information can all be found at www.imca-int.com/events.

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