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Seacor Marine Holdings chief executive John Gellert also received the OSJ Shipowner of the Year 2019
Seacor Marine Holdings chief executive John Gellert also received the OSJ Shipowner of the Year 2019

Seacor's John Gellert wins 2019 OSJ Industry Leader award

Seacor Marine Holdings chief executive John Gellert has taken home the 2019 OSJ Industry Leader Award sponsored by Uptime International at the annual Offshore Support Journal Conference in London

Seacor Marine Holdings chief executive John Gellert has taken home the 2019 OSJ Industry Leader Award sponsored by Uptime International at the annual Offshore Support Journal Conference in London.

Accepting his award, Mr Gellert quipped “I’d like to say it means millions, but we’re in the offshore business and in 2018, there weren’t millions. Sorry, that’s a joke ... It’s priceless, yes, in 2019 it will be priceless because the market’s coming back. It was a very active year for our first year as a separate company. Really helped establish our identity and our position in the offshore sector.”

With over 25 years spent within Seacor’s various businesses, Mr Gellert told Offshore Support Journal in an interview late last year that his résumé was “pretty boring”. This self-effacing characterisation, of course, downplays a wealth of experience.

In his most recent role, Mr Gellert was the steady hand behind the wheel of Seacor’s offshore marine services wing for 13 years. Prior to that, he spent another 13 years in financial, analytical, chartering and marketing roles within the organisation.

Just over a year and a half after spinning off from Seacor Holdings to head up the new Seacor Marine Holdings, Inc, he has managed to grow the business during a difficult period.

As Riviera’s head of content Edwin Lampert said when introducing Mr Gellert prior to his award “Our industry leader this year is both a pilot and a pioneer. He has piloted his company through a difficult period and now is pioneering its global leadership in terms of hybrid propulsion technology. To position the company for the future, this leader has decided to take the bold step of embracing hybrid propulsion technology by converting two PSVs to battery-hybrid power. And through joint ventures in Mexico and China, the company he leads will operate 12 battery-hybrid power vessels, which include four PSVs contracted to operate in the Gulf of Mexico and eight PSVs for worldwide operations."

By his own account, Mr Gellert has been firmly focused on the bottom line and ensuring Seacor could weather the ups and downs of a volatile market.

Like others in the sector, the difficult conditions have forced Mr Gellert to add focus to international operations while also doing a better job of adapting within local markets to what each of those markets, individually, has to offer.

The willingness to adapt is what forms the core of Mr Gellert’s leadership style, he said. To his mind, rigidity of thought is an enemy because it prevents sound decision-making.

Mr Gellert’s determination to remain open and flexible in his thinking and to adapt to market conditions are behind the company’s increased focus on hybrid power options for its vessels and the role that automation will play in vessel operations in the future.

The hybridisation of Seacor’s fleet also won the company the 2019 OSJ Shipowner of the Year award.

“Most recently with our JVs (joint ventures), we have installed hybrid power on our PSVs, both in China and in Mexico,” he said.

“For our Mexican JV, we are installing battery packs on existing PSVs which reduces fuel consumption and engine usage. It reduces fuel consumption by reducing engine usage, so there are savings for the end customer on fuel costs and savings for us on maintenance costs for less running hours.”

The move towards automation, according to Mr Gellert, is being driven by the interlinked business challenges of safety and an ageing labour pool that, due to economic difficulties, has left less room for new talent and training.

“I think the two challenges, they are kind of linked are safety and labour,” he said.

“You have overall an ageing workforce, so how do you replenish that workforce?” he asked.

“You are going to have less experienced crew, and how do you maintain safe operations with crew that are gaining experience? One of the things we are looking at is autonomy; not to look at the fully autonomous operation of a vessel but somewhat akin to what we have done with hybrid vessels, where a battery is supplementing the main diesel power. We want to find autonomous options that supplement the qualified crew,” he said.

Another aspect that pushed Seacor to the forefront of its sector in 2018 was getting in line with the trend towards restructuring and joint ventures.

The company closed a lift boat transaction with one if its wholly-owned subsidiaries in February 2018. Montco lift boat transaction, LLC and Seacor Marine and Montco Offshore formed a joint venture.

The deal helped Montco Offshore emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In accordance with the terms of the JV, Seacor Marine and Montco Offshore contributed certain lift boats and other related assets to Falcon Global Holdings LLC, which assumed certain operating liabilities and indebtedness associated with the lift boats and related assets. The transaction consolidated the 15 lift boats operated by Seacor Marine and six lift boat vessels previously operated by Montco Offshore.

In January 2018, Seacor Marine announced the formation of SEACOSCO Offshore LLC, a Marshall Islands entity jointly owned by Seacor Marine and affiliates of COSCO Shipping Group. SEACOSCO entered into contracts to buy eight Rolls-Royce designed, new construction PSVs from COSCO Shipping Heavy Industry (Guangdong) Co, an affiliate of COSCO Shipping, for US$161M, of which 70% was financed by the shipyard and secured by the PSVs on a non-recourse basis to Seacor Marine.

In a crowded field, nominees were shortlisted and industry voting determined winners for categories including support vessel of the year, shipowner of the year, innovation of the year, outstanding contributions in the fields of environmental practices, offshore renewables, subsea innovation, dynamic positioning, safety, industry leadership and Offshore Support Journal’s award for a lifetime’s achievement.

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