Remote In Water Surveys for PNG

by PNG Business News - May 03, 2022

Photo: Ship owners and operators of PNG flagged as well as international vessels can now benefit from a quicker, cheaper, and logistically streamlined In Water Survey Service.

Melanesian marine services company, Pacific Towing (PacTow), has conducted In Water Surveys (IWS) in Papua New Guinea for more than 10 years. Certified by multiple international survey companies for the supply of IWS of ships and mobile offshore units in the oil and gas sector, PacTow has recently introduced a ‘live video feed’ component to their IWS service.

The majority of IWS’s performed by PacTow’s commercial dive team (also Melanesia’s only permanent commercial diving operation) are conducted on PNG flagged vessels.  However, foreign vessels which would normally be surveyed to class in countries such as Singapore or Australia also utilise PacTow’s expertise (e.g., when they experience a technical difficulty or mechanical failure).

General Manager, Neil Papenfus, says that the value adding IWS service that they can now provide (i.e., with a live video feed back to a survey technician located just about anywhere in the world) has been well received.  “Clients see the cost and time savings, as well as the logistical benefits of not having to bring a survey technician into the country; this was especially the case over the last couple of years with border closures.”

Despite the obvious disruption of COVID-19, Papenfus says a definite upside was the innovation that came with it, such as remote survey apps.  “Ship owners and operators wouldn’t be benefiting from the type of in water surveys we’re now doing in remote partnerships with companies such as Lloyd’s Register.  Likewise, PacTow wouldn’t be getting as much survey business as a result.”

PacTow is certified to conduct IWS’s on numerous vessel types from tankers to pleasure craft, bulk carriers to cargo vessels, as well as barges and just about everything in between.  In addition to Lloyd’s Register, PacTow also conducts IWS’s for vessels in class with American Bureau of Shipping, Bureau Viritas, DNV, Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, and RINA.

Diving Manager, Ricky Leka, confirms that his survey team take approximately half a day to perform a typical IWS.  However, additional time is required when defects or abnormalities are detected, and the survey technician requires additional or closer viewing for reporting, or for recommendations for repair.

PacTow divers primarily conduct IWS’s in Port Moresby’s Fairfax Harbour which is where the company is headquartered at its dedicated tug base. The divers are also deployed to other harbours such as in Lae, Madang, Rabaul, and Wewak as dictated by client requirements. 

“Our divers are Australian trained and certified and equal to their overseas counterparts” emphasises Leka.  “No one knows our waterways, currents, and weather patterns as intimately as our PNG divers.”  This nuanced understanding, together with decades of experience, feeds into the commercial dive team’s safety credentials and the long running demand for their services, including in PNG’s oil and gas sector.

The oil and gas sector in PNG is growing and will further expand with increased offshore activity.  PacTow’s IWS certifications also applies to mobile offshore units (MOU’s). These are vessels which can be relocated for exploration and production purposes, such as mobile offshore drilling units, and for maintenance and lifting operations.  PacTow is perfectly positioned to provide its IWS service to PNG’s oil and gas sector and further grow its oil and gas clientele.



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Pacific Towing’s commercial dive team is central to the numerous services it provides PNG’s O&G sector including in-water surveys to class with live feeds back to international survey technicians. Pacific Towing, a 44 year old marine services business headquartered in Papua New Guinea has been servicing the oil and gas sector in excess of 10 years.  The company is a member of both the International Spill Control Organization and the International Salvage Union.  With its own Australian trained and certified commercial dive team, ‘PacTow’ is now providing its in-water surveys to class with live feeds streamed back to internationally located survey technicians. PacTow provides a diverse range of services to not just O&G companies themselves but also to some of the largest offshore support operators.  General Manager, Neil Papenfus says that the company’s commercial dive team at its dedicated tug base in Port Moresby is central to the many services it provides its O&G clientele, including the sector’s offshore operators. Of considerable value to these offshore entities, are PacTow’s in-water class surveys.  “Because our dive team can provide a live feed to surveyors in just about any country, we’re able to negate their need for international travel.  The live feed component of our service is obviously highly valued given that COVID-19 is making it next to impossible to get specialist international technicians both in to and out of PNG.” Papenfus confirms that the company’s commercial divers are all Australian trained and certified.  In addition to being highly trained, he says that "as PNG nationals they have an intimate knowledge of the country’s water ways, its weather patterns and overall marine conditions – they are definitely the best in-country and easily equal to their international counterparts.” Other services PacTow provides to the O&G sector include oil spill response and prevention; video pipeline inspections; PLEM valve hook up and release; towage, berthing and mooring; hull cleaning; and a range of niche, as well as project-based customised solutions. Specific to the country’s PNG-LNG project are the installation of current sensors, inspection of navigational piles/systems, and sea water intake inspections.  Additional services provided to two of its downstream clients include mooring inspections and repair, annual pressure testing of fuel transfer sub hoses, and also seabed survey and sampling. The company anticipates introducing new services to support PNG’s O&G sector as it invests further in its re-fleeting program which will see it acquire another three Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) tugs by 2025. 


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