Interview with Vortex: Focus on Research and Development

Vortex International Ltd, a New Zealand based supplier of dredging equipment, tools and dredge systems, has had a busy and exciting 2016.

Couple of days ago, we took the opportunity to have a quick chat with Mr Joe Goodin, Managing Director of Vortex International, who provided us with invaluable insight into the company’s latest activities, the challenging market of 2016 and their most important goals and business plans for the upcoming period.

DT: Would you be so kind to introduce your company in a few lines to our readers?

Joe Goodin: I formed Vortex International 2009 as a continuation of my work as an ROV operator since 1999 building and developing tools offshore.

In 2011 Vortex entered a rental agreement with Ashtead Technology which gives us a fully global reach, plus now with Buckthorn Partners and the Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) having acquired Ashtead Technology our reach is further extended into more markets.

Being an ROV operator myself, our design focus is reliability, performance and ease of mobilization. Without reliability, performance is worthless. Without superior performance it’s just another dredge. Without ease of installation it costs the client valuable vessel time.

For example: a recent job saw one of our 4 inch TORNADOs used 22hrs a day for 3 weeks with 120 locations dredged without incident or breakdown.

Our TORNADO 4 inch has 97kpa (28” in/hg) of actual inlet suction. Quite simply the highest proven and published value of any Venturi dredge on the market, plus we do all of our testing using Magnetite iron sand and rocks to give performance figures and removal rates based on actual working conditions.

Our working principle is that suction does the initial work moving the product whilst flow keeps the product moving in the hose. Such a scenario recently saw a TORNADO fitted with 90 to 100ft of vertical inlet hose to internally clean out a suction pile.

The patented Vortex dredge systems are based on a modular set up where the components are all able to be stripped, separated and hidden inside the ROV for quick installation, greatly reduced external components for improved LARS clearance and minimal interruption to other ROV tooling tasks. Powerful, reliable, simple tools that get in the water quickly and stay there working.

DT: Which markets are currently in the focus of Vortex, and do you have plans to expand your business areas?

Joe Goodin: Globally our oil and gas operations move alongside our involvement in renewables such as offshore wind farms, again this is due to the extensive reach Ashtead Technology has into current and emerging markets, one of which being decommissioning with our range of hydraulic cutters, oil accumulation tooling, seabed sampling and gas sampling to name a few.

Dredge equipment is our core business based around powerful reliable lightweight pumps that we adapt for a variety of new and off-shoot tooling.

Our new suction anchor pump called the Anchor Boss is based on the same proven pump platform and taken suction pumps to another level with up to 240m3/hr of water flow and the ability to accurately measure water flow and pressure in both flow directions complete with data logging.

Initial trials in the GOM saw the Anchor Boss deliver performance results and data not previously available to the client and will set the minimum required standard in suction pumps for some time to come.

DT: How did the challenging market of 2016 affect Vortex business?

Joe Goodin: In some regions we saw a big drop off in revenue whilst others were unusually busy. Some clients simply disappeared as ROV companies folded around the world and others grew in strength.

Some clients had their workload swing from drill support to spot market but they all had the same pressure on them to minimize costs.

Operators put cost pressure on our clients and the cost pressure flows down to tooling suppliers so for a couple years now Vortex has offered our clients a few FOC days where they can take our tooling and integrate it onto their ROV before the job starts.

This rental flexibility shaves off some mobilization cost for our clients which eases their pain and keeps our relationship growing with the client.

Without the clients we are nothing. They come first.

DT: Can you share some insight about your event calendar for 2017?

Joe Goodin: I will be in Singapore, Aberdeen and Houston as usual while adding Norway and Australia to our list of client visits. Our regional visits are important to keep contact with our client’s project managers etc as there has been a number of staffing changes throughout the industry in recent months.

DT: What are your most important goals and business plans for the upcoming period?

Joe Goodin: Research and development on our existing dredge units plus new tooling will continue to be a focus alongside visiting our clients to see how their future has changed and how Vortex needs to change to help them remain profitable.

The recent Ashtead purchase will give Vortex more opportunities to get face to face with new clients we never had access to. Our new tooling range such as the Anchor Boss gives us room for growth in a whole new sector whilst going deeper than ever before. Exiting times indeed.

We also have custom made tooling going to work measuring the internals of a field installed in 1969 to assist in planning a decom program. The client originally wanted Vortex to supply a dredge and soon found out we were able to provide them with a tooling suite for multiple tasks which dropped their development costs even further.

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