Owen Barry, Head of Fleet, Rocktree and IMarEST Fellow, spoke to Marine Professional from his office in Singapore about his career highlights, new ways of working and using state-of-the art technology to keep working through the pandemic.
What does Rocktree do?
Rocktree operates large, offshore floating terminals for coal and other dry bulk commodities – effectively providing offshore ports for barges to offload their cargo.
So, instead of three or four smaller vessels going into a port carrying bulk cargoes, the commodity can be transported on a larger ship and offloaded at our offshore floating terminal which offers a lower cost, lower-carbon footprint solution and deeper water facilities.
We can blend different cargoes and we’re diversifying into more sustainable commodities such as nickel ore, too.
We provide logistics solutions that unlock opportunities at every stage of the supply chain to make things more efficient for our customers.
I was brought in to improve the fleet as a whole and drive new engineering projects and ways of thinking which will helps us create the terminal of the future.
We have 100 people working onshore and 540 afloat, with offices in Indonesia, Italy, and Russia.
How has COVID changed things for you?
We had a drop in volumes in 2020 and worked hard to support carriers and crew, with team calls every day from head office which helped our volumes come back. Things slowed again with Southeast Asia’s rainy season in January and February.
Perhaps we’ll see a slightly different way of working where not everyone will go back to the office – office rents are expensive, and some jobs can be done perfectly well from anywhere in the world.
The last year has meant we’ve all had to do things differently
It certainly has. I’m in our head office which is 50 per cent occupied but many colleagues have been working from home. Indonesia, a key area of focus for our business, remains closed (at the time of writing) until the end of March.
That’s made it hard to travel and get Class state certificates, for example.
You’ve been using technology in a really smart way
We’ve been using the newest version of Microsoft’s HoloLens. It’s a clever, wearable, augmented reality headset and glasses which can be used to inspect machinery remotely and send back visuals to HQ. With travel restrictions, it has helped us overhaul things when we need to.
HoloLens uses multiple sensors, advanced optics, and holographic processing to display information.
It won’t replace the superintendent, as real people have the ability to see in and around things. When using HoloLens, for example, there is the need to give the user directions, asking them to move left, right or around. But as a tool it is a brilliant technology which we can take to another level in time.
It’s likely we’ll use it in a blended approach, helping us to do audits every quarter.
Tell us about your career highlights
I studied in Cork, Ireland and became a marine engineer, joined BP and went on to become a chief engineer. I’ve had a variety of technical jobs and worked on lots of different projects.
In Rosyth, Scotland, I was project manager on HMS Prince of Wales (commissioned 2019), the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier; and P&O Maritime Logistics before making the move to Rocktree in Singapore.
They approached me to come and work for them and I’ve been in Singapore for 7 months now. While COVID-19 has closed or limited many things, it’s a great place to work and live. I’m here for the long term.
Your best career advice
Shipping can be as diverse as you want it to be.
You can pick your location, move around, learn different things and live in different places. That’s what makes it such a great career choice.
Having a healthy work-life balance is something I’d advise on too. You don’t want life to pass you by – but also if you’re well rested it’s better for everyone and you enjoy work more. It’s something I’ve learned with age.
How important is it to keep skills up-to-date?
Skills and being able to work in a more agile way are important. When I’m hiring someone, I don’t look solely at the skills on their CV – it’s about looking at their personality and mindset too.
We nurture our talent and encourage people to be entrepreneurial. If they have an idea, I want them to develop it, do the business case, and present it. Not just doing the same thing every day is part of the reason people want to work for us.
At the same time, learning about the commercial aspects, the cost and revenue implications, is really important. It’s not something many people really appreciate.
How has IMarEST supported you?
When I knew I was moving here, I reached out to the IMarEST Singapore branch. They’ve been incredibly helpful.
Rocktree is an IMarEST corporate member and I’m an IMarEST Fellow as well as a Chartered Engineer. I encourage everyone to join the seminars, conferences and talks, particularly as we move into new areas like digitalisation in shipping.
I’m a big believer in learning and continuous improvement. Being able to ask the SIGs (Special Interest Groups) for answers to problems we encounter is incredibly helpful, too.
I haven’t been able to travel for work. I’m itching to get out and about.
Find out more on the Rocktree website.
Contact the IMarEST Singapore branch.