September 22, 2016

At the core of any mission is a subsea engineer: based on the client's operational requirements, this expert describes and plans projects down to the smallest details, ensuring the safety of men and property. An interview to shed some light on this profession, with Élodie Marais and Paul-Gaspard de Bovis, two enthusiastic subsea engineers at BOURBON.

BOURBON has 3 subsea engineers working under the supervision of the engineering manager. One of them is Paul-Gaspard de Bovis, who started his career with a BOURBON subcontractor. "I was doing calculations and I wanted to experience the reality of field work, while combining it with my passion for the ocean."

Élodie Marais, 24, is another team member. Following her internship at BOURBON at the end of her studies, she was delighted to accept the job offer she received. "It was the logical next step after completing my studies, and a profession that I'm enthusiastic about, despite the general perception that it's a 'man's profession'. Yet there is nothing to prevent a woman from being in this profession," she clarifies. Paul-Gaspard shares her point of view: "The more one is involved in operational professions, the less women one sees employed in these fields, yet women are great at compelling respect at sea!"

From the office to the open seas

The core market for subsea engineers is essentially the offshore world, oil and gas fields in particular. Subsea engineers study requests from their clients in order to determine feasibility and describe the project in detail: crew, vessel, tasks to be completed... These studies are substantiated with many calculations and drawings... in order to set out the details of a project over the space of a few days, a few weeks, months or years. "Safety is our top priority. We carry out verifications to ensure that the planned vessel is suitable for the mission, that the crane and robot will be able to carry out the required tasks... We are obsessed with the need to identify and anticipate hazards to people and equipment," explains Paul-Gaspard. A task that is mainly carried out in office settings, but that can also extend out to the ocean: 2 or 3 times per year, subsea engineers may join a vessel crew to accompany them on particulary complex missions.

"Safety is our top priority. We carry out verifications to ensure that the planned vessel is suitable for the mission, that the crane and robot will be able to carry out the required tasks... We are obsessed with the need to identify and anticipate hazards to people and equipment."
Paul-Gaspard De BovisSubsea Project Engineer

In such varying environments, what qualities are necessary to be a good subsea engineer? Élodie and Paul-Gaspard agree: highly developed math skills combined with a "physical vision of things". Of course being well organized is also important, in addition to excellent people skills. "Subsea engineers are the interface between crews, clients, technical teams... In the vessel enclosed environment, it's essential for them to remain calm at all times, to defuse any problems, and to manage communication," Paul-Gaspard insists.
Having a sense of humor is obviously allowed. For example: "Little drawings, notes or smileys that can be found on the ocean floor, they are painted onto equipment before being submerged, and can be found years later when a robot is used," Paul-Gaspard explains with a laugh.

Conquering new markets

Currently, 90% of missions are carried out on behalf of oil companies and their affiliates. But the drop in oil prices has had a deep impact on this market segment. The solution? To be adaptable and innovative! "BOURBON is diversifying, in order to meet today's requirements in the renewable energies sector. The installation of wind mills in the open sea involves towing and anchoring operations as well. BOURBON has the necessary expertise to do these tasks, and incidentally, this was the subject of my internship. And I am more specialized in offshore wind mills at BOURBON," explains Élodie Marais.

"BOURBON is diversifying, in order to meet today's requirements in the renewable energies sector. The installation of wind mills in the open sea involves towing and anchoring operations as well. BOURBON has the necessary expertise to do these tasks, and incidentally, this was the subject of my internship."
Elodie MaraisSubsea Project Engineer

In order to forge a position in this new market, BOURBON team members have an advantage: "a significant portion of our management team members are former operational staff. They know the ocean, have sailing experience, and their field expertise makes all the difference," conclude Élodie and Paul-Gaspard.

Bourbon behind the scenes