PartnerShip: How did Bourbon Mobility face the Covid-19 crisis?
François Leslé : I would be tempted to answer this question in the present, because even if the health situation is improving in Europe, the sites of our operations are still highly impacted by the lockdown imposed by many countries, including West Africa. Our priorities are the health of our employees and the clients we transport and the continuity of our operations. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our seafarers, who, despite extended periods on board, have demonstrated exceptional attitude and professionalism... We have to adapt to this context. In the short term, this means cutting costs by laying up a part of our fleet. Of course, this does not prevent us from maintaining our vision for the long term and for the investment in the renewal of our fleet that we are currently planning.
" Our priorities are the health of our employees and the clients we transport and the continuity of our operations."
françois lesleBourbon mobility CEO
PS: What is the strategy for the renewal of the crew boat fleet based on?
F. L. : The average age of our fleet is between 8 and 9 years, which is quite satisfactory because the life cycle of a Surfer can reach 12 to 15 years, depending on its use and the rigor of its maintenance. So, we intend to renew about one third of the Bourbon Mobility fleet within the next 4 years in order to maintain an average age between 7 and 8 years, in compliance with the BOURBON standard. Today, we operate nearly 150 Crew boats and our objective is to renew about fifty of them.
PS: What vessels will be concerned by this strategy?
Nicolas Elizon : We are aiming at evolution rather than revolution because we want to capitalize on our 35 years of experience. Future vessels will incorporate the feedback from the previous generation. We would like to carry out two major programs simultaneously with a dedicated project team: the renewal of the Crewliner fleet, which are 36-meter vessels, and the renewal of our 18-meter vessels, the Interfields. Crewliners are the most compact single-hull vessels on the market. They are equipped with high-power propulsion systems (over 8000 kw), enabling a cruising speed of 40 knots. Future vessels will be 38 m in length. They will be fitted out with last generation engines but also with brand new cabins with an innovative design. Of course, they will have all the WiFi-type communication and entertainment systems offered by Bourbon Mobility in the context of its transformation toward new services. Regarding the Interfields, the challenge is more focused on increasing the number of seats, around 30, while keeping the same size and top speed required by our clients. The point in common between the two programs is the installation of fuel monitoring systems that enable us to measure and, above all, optimize fuel consumption in order to reduce CO2 emissions. There is a strong demand for this on the part of our clients.
" We are aiming at evolution rather than revolution because we want to capitalize on our 35 years of experience."
nicolas elizonbourbon mobility COO
PS: Is the modernity of the fleet a key factor of success on the personnel transport market?
F.L.: After several years of crisis, we have seen fewer newbuildings on the Crew boat market, even if certain shipyards have tried to sell off inventories of vessels built before the crisis to new operators. We have also observed a strong tendency toward innovation to reduce costs, especially to eliminate all crew changes performed by helicopter. Our clients now pay more attention to passenger comfort and this is reflected in better passenger service, as in the air transport industry. However, not all the projects are economically viable. Bourbon Mobility has adopted this innovative approach while remaining pragmatic. For passenger comfort, we have worked with Peugeot Design Lab. In the end, the Surfer is based on these 3+1 pillars: safety/speed/technical reliability + comfort. But it is not enough to have the best vessel. You also need an operator with a robust management system and a local maintenance network. The crisis linked to the price of the barrel between 2014 and 2019 sometimes affected our capacity to respect our standards, but the "Back to Basics"* plan, which began two years ago, enables us to readjust our aim and return to our historic standards. The rejuvenation of the fleet completes these in-depth actions to continue satisfying our clients 365 days a year!
PS : Will these new vessels be accompanied by a specific crew adaptation program?
N.E : Our strength is that we are supported by competent crews that are already experienced in vessel operations, without creating a rupture in the operational environment: our inventories, maintenance programs and training will be adapted, but we are keeping the foundations. Like the aviation sector, we capitalize on a series, from one generation to another. Nevertheless, we will continue to develop predictive maintenance and onshore support in order to minimize lay-up time.
*Plan based on BOURBON's historic standards of operational excellence.