Francis Udom is a project engineer and works for the floating production, storage and offloading systems (FPSO) Group, Integrity Services Department of Lloyds Register EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). Originally from Nigeria, he is now based in Aberdeen, occasionally spending time away on oil platforms.
How did you become interested in the marine environment?
Growing up in Nigeria, I used to be amazed by the huge ships I could see from Calabar where I lived. This sparked an interest in the marine environment from an early age.
What was your entry route?
I decided to go to college in Nigeria to take a national diploma in marine engineering. I then worked for a ship repair and building yard. After this I found work in the shipping department of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG) which was under the management of Anglo-Eastern Shipping Management in Glasgow. NLNG sent me to Glasgow to study for a Higher National Diploma (HND) and Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) in marine and mechanical engineering.
How has your career progressed so far?
Having finished the HND/SVQ course, I worked as a marine engineer on board liquefied natural gas tankers/carriers, transporting natural gas from one country to another. I had to spend six months or so away at a time, so decided to go back to study for a degree in mechanical and offshore engineering (oil and gas) at The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. Because I already had an HND, the degree only took another two years and I worked for Lloyds Register on a part-time basis during this time. I finished my degree last year.
What are your main responsibilities/tasks?
My overall role is to look after the marine systems and structures of ships which have been converted for oil and gas exploration. I make sure that everything works properly, and to prevent problems occurring, I conduct risk inspections. FPSOs are moored facilities which extract oil from subsea wells and can store and offload the oil into tankers. My role involves developing FPSO structural integrity schemes and scheduling inspection frequencies. Prior to issuing an integrity statement (that’s a document stating that everything is safe and seaworthy), I conduct structural assessments, review project modifications, collate information and review and analyse the data. In order to carry out integrity work on marine systems and structures, I have to visit operational FPSOs at regular intervals.
What are the main qualities and skills you need to do your job?
To do my sort of work, you obviously need sound technical and engineering skills. In addition, because of the nature of the industry, it’s really important to be comfortable working with teams of people from all over the world. You also need excellent problem-solving skills, leadership ability and ability to motivate yourself and other people.
Where do you see your career heading?
I’d like to keep working in the oil and gas industry and eventually make a difference to society – I’m really keen to work on projects to help minimise climate change. What do you enjoy most about your job? I like everything about my job. It’s great to work with such a wide range of people. I particularly enjoy seeing a project through, problem-solving and getting an end result.
Do you have any tips for someone considering a similar career to yours?
If you are a young person thinking about engineering, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as a career. I will never regret choosing engineering as it exposes you to so many opportunities in life. It’s also relatively easy to move from one type of engineering to another – I was originally in marine engineering, but now I specialise in the related oil and gas industry.