Solis Marine Consultants Celebrates 10 Years
Chairman Nigel Clark reflects on the first decade of Solis Marine
When John Simpson and Ros Blazejczyk, then Ros Spink, first discussed establishing their own marine consultancy they quickly found that they shared a clear vision of the way forward. By combining their complimentary skills, expertise and experience they set out to offer salvage and wreck removal support and attendance, together with casualty investigations and expert witness services, while keeping overheads to a minimum for the benefit of their clients. This was the basis upon which Solis Marine Consultants was formed in 2012 and next year we will be delighted to be celebrating our 10th anniversary.
John brought to the newly formed business the expertise of a Master Mariner and former pilot, his status as a member of the panel of Special Casualty Representatives at Lloyds (“SCR”), together with many years of experience as a marine consultant.
Ros brought her naval architectural background and engineering skills, together with her own experience of working within the world of marine consultancy. Both were already well versed in providing support to salvage and wreck removal operations, drawing on their respective practical and technical skills, and Ros would also soon go on to be appointed to the Lloyd’s panel of SCRs in 2014.
Their plans for Solis Marine included training younger master mariners and naval architects to help with providing continuity in the industry.
To launch the new venture a partnership was formed within the UK, where John was now based, and a company set up in Singapore, where Ros was located. In true start-up mode, and long before a global pandemic made it a necessity, they both initially worked from home. However, as the business began to take off offices were soon needed, with the Singapore operation moving into premises on Amoy Street, while in the UK an office was opened on Fleet Street before moving to our present home at Temple Chambers.
Everyone who starts up a business remembers their first “sale”. John recalls his first Solis instruction coming from West of England P&I Club to attend the sinking at the berth of the ferry ‘Napoleon Bonaparte’, which was sufficiently newsworthy to make the front cover of Paris Match.
Ros remembers her first instruction involving a trip to Sao Luis in Brazil to assist Svitzer Salvage with a wreck removal tender for the removal of a jack up rig called ‘Sep Orion’. From these two early jobs the Solis Marine Group has now been instructed on more than 900 cases, covering not just salvage related work but the full range of marine consultancy services.
In addition to quickly needing offices, it wasn’t long before Solis needed to start growing the team. In the UK in 2013 a senior marine civil engineer was appointed to add to the Solis range of services and capabilities, and that same year he went on to run our Hong Kong office. Today we have 15 permanent marine consulting experts across the Group, freelance consultants retained by Solis on an exclusive basis, a large number of non-exclusive freelance consultants covering various locations around the world, and a network of “Alliance” partners giving us still further global reach, local resource and expanded capability.
Rapid Replay Reconstruction.
We continue to maintain offices in London and Singapore, and we now also have bases in Falmouth, Rotterdam, Shanghai and Qingdao.
During the last 10 years we have seen the growing importance within shipping, and across a range of uses, of electronic data and data analysis. One of our earliest jobs was a collision case that sadly resulted in a significant loss of life. Solis Marine was instructed to give expert evidence and during submissions we were asked by the panel of judges to play an electronic reconstruction of the incident that we had developed in-house based on AIS and radar data. Although reconstructions were relatively new to court hearings, our electronic version of events received praise from the judges and helped to secure the release of the vessel’s master who was being held in gaol.
From this first foray into using AIS data to assist with a case we developed “Rapid Replay”, our own proprietorial incident reconstruction system that is routinely used by clients and generally regarded as one of the best systems of its type available. Our reputation for working with AIS and VDR data also played a large part in Solis Marine being awarded in 2019 the role of project manager for the UK’s MCA MARLab project, an innovative study into preparing for the further development of autonomous shipping in UK waters.
Solis Marine can rightly claim to have embraced both new technology and the changing dynamics within both the shipping and offshore energy sectors during the last 10 years. If the development of Rapid Replay represented a milestone in Solis Marine establishing its credentials in the use of data for incident reconstructions, the formation of sister company Solis Marine Engineering (SME) in 2018 saw the Group reacting to the push for a greener future.
Cremyll Ferry Design
Headed up by managing director Simon Hindley, SME provides engineering and naval architecture consultancy services to, primarily, the clean shipping and renewables sectors and has already been involved in a number of exciting projects.
Contracts to date have included work on electric ferries, tidal energy, floating wind energy and the conversion of traditional offshore support vessels into wind farm specific support vessels, to mention just a few of the areas covered.
Another highlight of the last 10 years has been the establishment of the Solis Alliance network, bringing together marine consultancy businesses that can offer Solis Marine and our clients either a local resource where we don’t have a presence or a new range of expertise, or both. Through the Alliance we now have a dedicated local presence for technical consulting services in Scandinavia, South America and the UAE, together with access to global research and trends analysis in respect to almost anything and everything that is happening in the shipping and ship building sectors. It’s an effective and efficient model, just without the overheads.
Tug & OSV Magazine
As anyone who works in marine consulting knows it’s rarely if ever dull in our world, no two jobs are exactly the same, and over the last 10 years Solis Marine has been involved in some memorable instructions. We’ve assisted in the recovery of a submarine in Mumbai harbour following a torpedo room explosion, and we’ve managed to travel from the UK to Sri Lanka to attend an engine room fire during the middle of the pandemic when all borders were closed.
We’ve enjoyed the company of penguins, elephant seals and the spectacular scenery of South Georgia whilst surveying the Edwardian steam trawler Viola, and the equally spectacular coastal scenery of New Zealand while working on the ‘Rena’ grounding. Our consultants have given expert evidence in various jurisdictions around the world, not least in the High Courts of London, Hong Kong and Singapore. We’ve worked on a fatal accident in the Thames, collisions in the South China Sea and groundings on the Great Barrier Reef and on many more incidents too numerous to mention.
As we move towards our 10th anniversary and reflect on the last decade, we are modestly proud of the development of the Solis Group. We have built a multi-disciplinary marine and offshore technical consultancy that has gained a reputation in the industry for the quality of its work and for its ability to provide both traditional marine consultancy services as well as responding to the latest innovations in our industry.
All this, of course, has only been possible with the support of our clients and through the hard work and dedication of our staff. We look forward to the next 10 years and to continuing to support shipping and the offshore energy sector during what should be a very interesting next decade.