Working for Atlas Professionals for more than a decade, Senior Pilot Technician Vincent Droulez shares his career story and offshore experience.
Once a Republican Guard in France, Vincent Droulez nowadays is a trusted professional for the ROV, Diving and Inspection team of Atlas Professionals in Banbury, UK. Explaining his move from the Military Forces to the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) industry, Vincent says: “In the Special Forces I was a diver, and back then there was no diving work in France. So, 25 years ago I moved to England where there was diving work.”
Easier said than done, though, as his French diving qualifications were not recognised in the UK. “I had to redo them all,” Vincent recalls. “Once I had the required qualifications I started diving and doing some ROV work and inspections.” From there, he began working for the agency Subserv Pro, which was acquired by Atlas Professionals in 2015, working all around the world. As such, Vincent is very familiar with the Atlas staff in Banbury and knows he can count on them, even calling Team Leader and Account Manager Claire Freestone his mentor. “She’s always been there for me. Every time I came back to her, she was very open and got me a job straight away,” says Vincent. “Three years ago – when the oil industry went down – I had no work and Atlas was there for me.”
Since 2017, Vincent has been working as a Senior Pilot Technician for Saipem through Atlas. It is his job to make sure the ROV is ready for any operation at any time. “My sole purpose is to have the ROV fully operational when it goes in the water. And I get my satisfaction every single day,” he laughs, “because it does work! Of course, if there is any problem, I need to fix it in the quickest way possible.”
The first thing Vincent does when he wakes up offshore, is check on his family and loved ones, calling them once a day. “My first thought is my family, and my last thought is my first, regardless of my hours. I tell them I’m OK and make sure they are OK. I need that for my piece of mind, because I love them, and I care for them.”
When he is offshore Vincent focusses on having the best relationship possible with his colleagues. “I’m working six to seven months in the year offshore. So, I need to make sure I have good relationships with my colleagues because this is my family offshore.” He tries to prove himself, giving not only himself but also Atlas a good name. He laughs: “I believe my colleagues love me – not in the same way as my partner – but they love me for my work and my personality.”
It is no surprise that ‘family always has your back’ also applies to Vincent’s offshore family. “Imagine,” he says, “that one day you have an accident, and you cannot work anymore. How are you going to provide for your family? That’s what we remind each other every single day. You need to be careful; you need to take care. Because if you don’t have that job, you will not able to support your family. Safety is dealt with daily, from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep. Work is very important, but the safety of people is also very important.” Strongly identifying with Atlas Professionals’ Zero Harm goal, he concludes that incidents or accidents also can cost a lot of money and it is unnecessary to have casualties offshore.
Underlining this safety mindset, Vincent was recognised as the SHOC (Safety Hazard Observation Card) Winner on board Saipem’s S10000 for his good observation and immediate action in August 2019. “In the ROV industry we operate machinery that could be very dangerous. One danger is heavy load – you’re talking about 8 or 10 tonnes – and another is high voltage, about 4150 volts. If somebody would touch that…” he says. “So, if people enter an area without knowing it’s dangerous, we’ll politely tell them. We all look after each other over there, not only the ROV professionals but all the departments.”
Tips and Training
Talking about the importance of ‘on the job’ training and competence management, Vincent says this can be a very rewarding part of the job. “You take somebody under your wings and teach them what you know, until you are satisfied and confident they can do the job.” For Vincent, the real reward then is to see his training in action when they perform the task. “I teach them one way to do the job, knowing it will be safer for them in that particular way. When they understand that, comply and they do it that way – that’s the reward for me.”
Sharing a final piece of advice with people that want to go into the industry, Vincent says it is very important to be open-minded, be committed and be passionate. “Every day is a learning day,” he says. Next to this, those interested in working offshore should understand that it is not easy. “I’m very happy with what I’m doing, but it can be difficult. For example, I just came back onshore yesterday and need to get on with the routine of daily life after a month of night shifts,” he says, gently closing of the conversation and heading to his bed.