Quay to success

Sinbad Marine Services is a marine services company operating out of Killybegs Harbour on the west coast of Ireland. It provides a comprehensive range of services including ships agency, vessel hire and project management to a host of international clients. Additionally the company operates Killybegs Supply Base, meaning it provides base management services to various customers such as Shell, Statoil and ENI and several other offshore support companies.

The company was started 31 years ago by Jim Parkinson, who continues to be Sinbad Marine Services managing director, and began with one small boat providing routine services around Killybegs Port. It quickly expanded, however, and director of Sinbad Marine Services, Julie Parkinson, elaborates further on the range of what it can offer its customers today: “We provide services in three key areas. The first is ships agency, which involves looking after whatever the vessels need whilst they’re visiting Irish ports. We provide this in a number of ports on the west coast of Ireland and our clientele includes fishing boats, cargo boats, offshore oil and gas boats, cruise liners and other bulk cargo vessels. Our second speciality is shore-based management services to the offshore oil and gas industry. Alongside the operation of Killybegs supply base we also provide project management services to the seismic industry operating off the coast. Our third focus is the running of our own fleet of tugs and workboats.”

A recent operation by Shell saw heavy collaboration with Sinbad Marine Services, as Julie illustrates: “Shell discovered gas off the west coast of Ireland a couple of years ago so all of the port services required to support the project from initial seismic campaign through to its exploration and production phase, as well as building the pipeline and subsea infrastructure was supplied via Killybegs Supply Base as operated by Sinbad Marine Services. This created much needed employment in an area that has been ravaged by the downturn in the fishing industry. We employ many ex-fishermen and also subcontract some services to local companies who have diversified their activities into the provision of services to the oil and gas sector. We also provide workboats and tug vessels to various offshore companies for other nearshore and offshore construction activities.”

This history of contracts with big names such as Shell has seen the company become the largest of its kind along the west coast of Ireland, but the company also supports projects further afield, as Julie points out: “One of our new workboats has been working successfully on the Thanet windfarm off Harwich, and one of our multi-purpose tug vessels, ‘SMS Shoalbuster’ which was launched June 2009, is on a bareboat charter to Gareloch Support Services in Scotland.”

Julie explains how the market environment has shaped Sinbad Marine’s ventures: “Our focus is to try and predict what the market needs. We’re very much customer and market-focused. We try to predict in advance what our clients will need and then try to either build, buy or hire the equipment and resources to be ready when the customer needs it.” This focus has seen two recent purchases: SMS Bison, a 47 ton tug boat purchased from Bergen, Norway, to increase the power capabilities of its fleet, and the road transportable multi-cat vessel SMS Meercat. The company has also been ISO 9001 certified for ten years, ensuring the customers of a high quality operation, whilst now working towards both an ISO 14001 environmental management standard and OHSAS 18001 health and safety specification.

Julie details further Sinbad Marine’s customer-focused motivation: “Because of our location we realise that we aren’t as close to the action as many other people, so we compete in terms of quality. We have to provide the best possible service and the best possible equipment. That is the main driver behind the development and growth of our company. The feedback that we have received from clients has been excellent. They all say that the services provided exceed any expectations for a port of its size and location.” Julie adds that the expertise and commitment of many of its subcontractors has been an important contribution to the development of the company.

This ethic has seen the company fare well. In the past five years both its employee numbers and annual turnover has doubled, whilst also seeing the company spread its activities to other ports. This too has been a client-driven initiative, as Sinbad Marine initially offered its agency and offshore services only through Killybegs. After numerous requests by clients to be represented at other ports by Sinbad Marine, it branched out to other locations along Ireland’s west coast.

Despite recent bad conditions in global finances affecting the marine industry, the company has weathered it out well. Julie describes how the crisis has affected Sinbad Marine: “We find our clients are a lot more cost-conscious and we’ve had to react by shopping around, providing them with more efficient services. We’ve streamlined some of our own services and subcontracts as well. Some parts of the business aren’t as busy as in previous years, with fewer cruise liners visiting the port for example, but we’ve made up for it through growth in other areas.”

Growth for the company looks set to continue over the next few years. Sinbad Marine Services aims to expand its fleet activities in the UK and mainland Europe. Julie adds that one other major avenue Sinbad Marine is exploring is the offshore renewable energy sector: “We are actively involved in its development in Ireland. We are working with various clients and statutory authorities in this country and abroad to discuss the development of offshore windfarms, and tidal and wave energy. It’s at a very early stage but we are in the process of talking to various stakeholders to try and help development, to find out what the industry needs.”

Julie concludes with firm belief in the company’s future success: “We want to consolidate our position as the number one shipping company on the west coast of Ireland and continue building on our current success.”

Rapid growth over the last five years

Operates Killybegs supply base

Collaborates with major oil and gas companies