"Communication with seafarers is key"

Julie Heuguet's ability to seize upon the opportunities presented to her is what led her to explore the offshore marine services sector: for almost 2 years now, she has served as Bourbon Gulf's Commercial & Contracts Officer in Qatar. We caught up with Julie for an interview.

OFFshore: Can you tell us a little bit about your career path so far?

Julie Heuguet: After completing my Master's degree in International Economics at the Université Paris Dauphine, I spent two years in Qatar under the "VIA" (International Volunteering in Administration) program, working as an economic attaché for the French Embassy there. I then joined Bourbon Gulf as a Commercial and Contracts Officer in February 2021. I decided to join Bourbon Gulf firstly because I had really enjoyed my time in Qatar, and wanted to continue working in the Middle East, and also because I love experiencing new challenges. Having previously worked in more oil and gas-oriented projects, I was curious to see what an experience in the maritime sector could bring me. I work within a team of around twenty people, on quite a varied range of projects. My coworkers include French people, Indians, Filipinos, Egyptians, etc.; it's a very multicultural team, which is something I appreciate and find very enriching.

OFFshore: What does your specific role entail?

J.H: It's difficult to describe a typical day, because my responsibilities are highly varied! I'm in charge of managing some of our contracts, and therefore also relations with one of our most important clients. I oversee a portfolio of 4 vessels, 3 of which are under contract. This means being in regular contact with those clients, in order to respond to all their requests as efficiently as possible. I also have to monitor operations closely: I'm in constant contact with operations managers and crews in order to ensure that all our contractual obligations are being met. In the event of a technical issue or an incident on board, I also coordinate with the teams from Bourbon Gulf to prepare an action plan and present it to the client. At the same time, I also follow market developments and industry trends, keeping an eye out for new opportunities and tenders. I work on tender bids, providing support to the Bourbon Gulf Commercial Manager, with whom I work very closely; I prepare all the necessary documents and lead communications with the teams from Marseille, and the ship managers. No two days are ever the same!

OFFshore: Do you often have to go aboard the vessels?

J.H: I do indeed, quite regularly in fact. For example, for the deployment of a recent new contract I had to take the client aboard the vessel in order to ensure that everything in the contract had been correctly implemented and that the procedures were being adhered to. It's important for the crews to know me; communication with the seafarers is a key aspect of my work.

OFFshore: What are the main skills required in your job?

J.H: Consistency and adherence to procedures. You also have to be able to prioritize which actions to pursue, in order to avoid getting overwhelmed, and have a good working knowledge of the rules aboard a vessel.

OFFshore: Are there any particularly memorable operations you could tell us about?

J.H: Yes, the deployment of an FSIV contract for Bourbon Sumatra with one of our main clients. The transfers of personnel/seafarers were initially performed via helicopter from Doha to the Offshore (and vice-versa), but are now carried out by boat aboard our own vessel, which was a first for Qatar! It was a highly significant project, and we're proud to have been selected for this 3-year contract. I had the opportunity to work on every aspect of the deployment of the contract, from the outset to its launch, and I even took part in the first passenger transfer. Our ongoing goal is to deliver the best quality of service, so that this type of operation becomes more widespread in Qatar, with BOURBON as the first name on everyone's call list.

OFFshore: Have you met anyone that's been a particular influence? Are there any stories that have stayed with you?

J.H: During my first visit aboard a vessel, which was on the Bourbon Liberty 151, I met the captain who was approaching retirement. He was the oldest captain working at Bourbon Gulf. It was a touching experience to see a man who was so devoted to his team, so motivated and proud to be carrying BOURBON's colors. That experience has stayed with me. The sense of team spirit you see among the crews is very striking too.

OFFshore: What exactly does this value represent to you?

J.H: If there's one value that I've found to be important since I arrived at Bourbon Gulf, it's definitely team spirit! Being able to work as part of a group on a daily basis is absolutely essential. Interaction and cooperation between different posts is essential to ensuring our contracts can be properly implemented, as well as to monitoring our operations and ensuring they run smoothly. You can't make it on your own – collective progress is the watchword.

OFFshore: Have you ever been given any advice you'd like to share with us?

J.H: Sometimes we all have to face hurdles in our working lives. One piece of advice I'd like to share is that you shouldn't look at problems as insurmountable obstacles, but instead try to turn them to your advantage and learn from them. For every problem, there's a solution.

OFFshore: How do you envisage your professional future?

J.H: I see myself continuing on at BOURBON, in Qatar or elsewhere depending on the opportunities that might arise. Climbing the ladder, expanding my portfolio of vessels and continuing to gain experience!