For Sergiy Yakovenko, Director of Albion Marine Solutions, it’s an exciting time to be in the shipping industry, especially on Canada’s West Coast. “There is definitely an uptick in activity being seen in many sectors within the industry,” he said during a recent interview with BC Shipping News, pointing to such drivers as upcoming IMO regulations and the industry’s push toward more environmentally sustainable technologies as well as the development of an LNG industry in British Columbia and other terminal infrastructure projects. With project managers and engineers experienced in a diverse range of services throughout many sectors, the Albion team is at the forefront when it comes to turnkey solutions.
Albion Marine was established as a superintendency agency in 2000. And while it was formally incorporated in early 2017, Yakovenko’s reputation as a leading expert in a number of disciplines dates back much further. With over 35 years of practical ship industry experience in project management, he spent the last 15 years with Teekay Shipping, seeing him in such roles as Manager, Technical Quality Assurance, Maintenance Optimization; Project Manager, Innovation, Technology and Projects; and Project Manager, New Build and Projects. He received his Master’s, Marine Engineering, from the Odessa State Marine Academy; his Master’s Degree in Patent Studies from the Odessa Patent Institute; and his Diploma in Ship Superintendency, Maritime Ship Management from Lloyd’s Maritime Academy. If that’s not enough, Yakovenko is frequently called upon by marine regulators such as Transport Canada, Environment Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard for his knowledge on upcoming legislation and technologies.
The combined experience of the Albion team is equally impressive. Forty-six staff, comprising 13 project managers supported by designers, technical and support staff. All project managers (with a number of them being Transport Canada-certified Marine Engineers) have hands-on vessel operational experience including new-to-the-company Director of Sales Elena Corin who is a Marine Engineer with a Professional Designation of Shipbuilding Engineer and has worked for companies like Rolls-Royce and Teekay Shipping. “Our people need to know the vessel inside out,” said Yakovenko. “It is advantageous when we talk to clients and potential clients, including shipping companies, original equipment manufacturers as well as regulatory authorities like Transport Canada and others on the administrative and enforcement side of the business. Generally, we’re at the junction of operations, manufacturing and legislation and we support all of that with project management.” He further noted that all project managers have experience beyond operations with skills like dry-docking, development and implementation of projects and the equipment used.
Albion has offices and sales agents in India, Shanghai, New York and is also represented through joint venture agreements in places like China, Singapore, Croatia, Poland and, of course, Canada, making them a “local company with a global footprint.”
“Our forté is as a turnkey solution provider,” said Yakovenko. “We provide an entire range of services — from business case development and feasibility studies, to engineering procurement, supervision through the implementation phase as well as after-sales services like maintenance, management and crew training. It really depends on the needs of our client but we’re able to offer the entire range of project management services.”
To give just one example, Yakovenko is considered one of the foremost authorities in the industry on ballast water management systems. “One of our projects involved the installation of BWM systems for a fleet of 23 vessels for a major shipping company. In this example, we recommended the equipment to use, carried out the engineering design and provided site supervision during the retrofit.”
Another example: As 2020 nears and IMO air emission regulations come into effect, Yakovenko has been busy with fuel conversions on a variety of vessels — all types of tankers, bulk carriers, containers, ferries, ocean-going tugs and offshore vessels to name just a few. “The industry is slowly waking up to the fact that they need to prepare. Many ship owners require assistance to understand and comply with the upcoming regulations so we help them understand their options and then follow through on project management of the conversion,” he said, adding that a one-size-fit-all compliance solution doesn’t work. “You need to understand the vessel — the type of machinery, the requirements of the engines and the specific components of the equipment as well as its operations — to be able to provide ship owners with the best solution for them, whether it turns out to be a conversion to LNG, scrubber installation or upgrading equipment to be able to run on low sulphur fuel.”
In addition to project management and superintendency services, Albion is frequently contracted by ship owners to provide onboard ship inspections, investigations or damage assessment surveys; and they continue to provide on-site supervision services for new builds and dry-docking in ports around the world. “It’s not uncommon to have, for example, a client based in the U.K. call us to do an inspection in Singapore, Florida or Montreal and we’ll be able to get it done within 24 hours,” said Yakovenko.
As part of their network, Albion maintains a number of affiliations with key manufacturers, shipyards and ship repair facilities. “Our commitment to our clients is that we know everything we can about the product before we enter into the design phase,” he said. Using the example of ballast water management systems, Yakovenko noted that Albion staff will often work with BWMS designers to marinize their equipment and make it suitable for a specific type of vessel. “We send our people directly to the manufacturer’s factory for training and continue to maintain a number of OEM-certified service qualifications.”
“We’re at the front edge of legislative solutions that address sustainability and a desire for a clean environment,” said Yakovenko. “We’re excited to be involved in the environmental aspects of some of these projects; they’re part of a leading edge of innovation in environmental engineering.” With that comment, Yakovenko sees a number of opportunities to expand services given the team’s experience. “In Canada, we’re very active in this area and proactive in developing solutions for ship owners and operators to allow them to comply with regulations effectively and efficiently.”
Yakovenko sees expansion coming not only by region but by type of project as well. “We have staff that have worked on LNG terminal development, for example, and are hoping to participate in projects that are moving ahead in B.C. We are also expecting to see an increase in oil and gas infrastructure development on the West Coast and again, we have experience with similar projects, including FSO conversions in other areas of the world, which could easily be applied here.”
Yakovenko is also looking to grow Albion’s Asian and Middle Eastern operations. “We have agreements in place and have established a good foundation in China, India and other Asian locations. We have a good presence in China and very good working knowledge of Chinese yards. Through our agency agreements, we’re able to provide strong support to local nationals,” he said, adding that discussions are underway with shipyards in the Middle East and Singapore for agreements to provide engineering services.
Another service area Yakovenko and his team are looking to expand into is their 3D modelling capabilities that are included in design services. “The technology can be easily applied to industrial areas with the same principles used for the maritime, offshore and oil and gas industries.” Using 3D CAD modelling and AutoCAD software, Albion prepares concept models and detailed fabrication drawings for ship conversions and plant upgrades. They also use the technology to scan plant, machinery, electrical cabling and piping systems as well as to develop engineering design packages.
Noting that Albion provides “the entire package of project management, engineering and superintendency services,” Yakovenko is very optimistic about the future. “It’s exciting to see the potential for increased activity in B.C.,” he said. “And even more exciting to be a part of it.”