Still Getting A Lift After 40 Years In the Offshore Cranes Sector

There is little doubt John Morrison can be described as a veteran of the offshore cranes and lifting industry given that earlier this month he celebrated his 40th anniversary since first entering the engineering sector.

Another milestone comes in Stavanger on 24 April when John will attend the 24th International Offshore Crane and Lifting Conference, having served on the organising committee for 17 of those 24 years.

John completed a general engineering apprenticeship in Aberdeen in 1976 at a time when the city was on the verge of being transformed by the discovery of oil in the North Sea. Like many apprentices he recognised the many career opportunities that lay within this “new” industry and worked in a number of positions with offshore crane companies over the next 12 years, gaining an engineering degree along the way, before forming his own business in 1988 with co-director Bert Middleton.

Based in Aberdeen, Specialist Maintenance Services (SMS) and its Great Yarmouth based sister company A1 Safety Training Consultants, became strongly established in the oil and gas sector and employed more than 160 staff globally.

The businesses caught the eye of industry newcomer EnerMech and in 2008 SMS and A1 became EnerMech’s first acquisitions. Fast forward to 2019 and EnerMech’s Mechanical Handling Services division (cranes & lifting, hydraulics and training) employs more than 900 staff across the North Sea and in Norway, the Middle East, Caspian USA, Asia, Australasia and Africa.

EnerMech’s International Director for Mechanical Handling Services may have 40 years under his belt but he has lost none of his enthusiasm for a sector which he views as one of the most exciting industries to be involved in.

He said: “There have been many changes of the last four decades, including a much stronger emphasis on having the correct procedures and processes in place, and at EnerMech we regard safety to be paramount in everything we do.”

Not surprisingly technology has transformed the lifting industry, having a hugely positive impact on the design of cranes and on their safety and capabilities which are now deployed onshore and offshore. John, a classic car fan, uses a motoring analogy: “When I started in the business, the cranes in use could be compared to a Ford  Cortina, whereas now happily we have access to the equivalent of Jaguars, BMWs or Audis.”

Emerging technologies and specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the use of big data will continue to shape the cranes and lifting sector and John will chair a session on Standards and Research at the upcoming IOCL conference, while EnerMech colleague and MInteg director Patrick Gallagher is a conference speaker on “Inspection – The Future”.

Following the global energy sector downturn, one challenge facing the industry lies in recruitment and encouraging new entrants to follow John’s example in enjoying a fulfilling career.

He added: “EnerMech has an excellent apprentice and graduate programme and we are proactive in attracting the next generation of designers, technicians and engineers but the downturn led to large numbers of people leaving the industry. It is forecast that we are facing yet another skills shortage and it may be more difficult to get young people to consider a career in cranes and lifting, but the job has everything – engineering, electrical, hydraulics and mechanical – and to my mind is a very exciting place to earn your living.”