Spotlight On: Mike Hussey, Regional Director, North America
Sharing the latest market insights, projects in the region, and
Sharing the latest market insights, projects in the region, and more
It's always a pleasure to highlight the amazing work that Sarens' talented men and women are doing out in the field and around the globe. This month, we're putting the spotlight on Mike Hussey, Regional Director for North America.
Mike and his team are based in Houston, where Hurricane Harvey recently left large portions of the city underwater. The storm hit right after this interview was conducted, so Sarens followed up with Mike to make sure everyone on the team was safe and sheltered.
"Hurricane Harvey was definitely a big blow to Houston," he says. "But fortunately everyone on our team is safe and things are starting to get back to normal at the office, which is still open and serving our clients. We hope that all those who have been impacted by this powerful storm are able to recover and rebuild as quickly as possible, and we are all doing what we can to help our community get back on its feet."
Sarens would like to thank Mike and the team in Houston for their dedication and teamwork, and wish them a quick return to normalcy. Read on for more about this special division.
Could you give us some background on the North American division?
Sarens entered both Canada and the US by acquiring local businesses. In the United States, we purchased a company principally focused on container crane upgrades and specialized nuclear component change outs, while in Canada our acquisition operated a dozen cranes in the province of Alberta.
Today, these businesses have grown to offer the full scope of Sarens services including cranes, over the road and onsite transport, jacking, rigging, skidding and specialized lift systems. In the past twelve months we have even completed our first barge-based projects in both countries!
Our employees typically number as many as 400 and the region includes over 100 cranes in all size categories, even a 1,600-tonne capacity Demag CC8800. For transport, we have over 350 axle lines and our inventory includes specialized lifting and skidding systems.
The region has changed dramatically in the last several years. When I joined Sarens, North America had less than 100 employees and less than 15 cranes. We have grown by more than five times and don't see our growth ending there. We have, however, remained a company focused on the individual: the individual employee and customer.
Could you tell us about your business model, and how you've adopted it?
In both Canada and the US we have focused on the development of a strong base: in Canada, it has been Alberta and in the US it is the Gulf Coast.
We then looked for opportunities to expand our offering to specific projects where Sarens offers a unique solution. Both Canada and the US are very large countries and we cannot be successful if we try to be "everything to everyone".
Instead, we have focused on projects where we truly feel we can make a difference. In some cases this is by offering a complete or unique solution. In other cases, this has been by providing our customer with superior attention and service or by supplementing a local crane supplier on a project where they need a few large capacity cranes to allow them to fully supply a project.
What have been the division's major recent projects?
A few of the major projects that we have completed in North America include:
- Champlain Bridge Project (Quebec, Canada). Working for SSLC (Signature sur le Saint Laurent), Sarens installed 38 footings for the New Champlain Bridge over theSt.Lawrence River in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. With footings weighing between 600 and 1,000 tonnes, a unique system was developed to complete the task - the Floating Foundation Installer (FFI). The FFI is a Self-propelled catamaran that can lift, transport and install foundations by its own means.
- Fort Hills Oil Sands Project (Alberta, Canada). The Fort Hills, Alberta oil sands project is considered to be one of the most promising oil sands assets in the region. Operated by Suncor, the project is expected to produce up to 180,000 barrels per day for approximately the next 50 years and will create 1,600 permanent jobs for people in the region. Sarens contributed to the project by transporting and lifting 11 solvent bullets and over 200 modules. The Sarens team, comprised of 100 lift crew members and 50 transport crew members, completed the project between August 2015 and January 2017.
- CNRL Horizon Oil Sands Maintenance Contract (Alberta, Canada). In 2016 Sarens Canada was awarded the crane contract to support maintenance activities at CNRL's Horizon Oil Sands site. This multiyear contract employs cranes ranging from 8 to 500 tonne capacity on an ongoing basis, with the total number of cranes deployed varying between 10 and 60 at any given time.
- Corpus Christi Project (Texas, USA). In 2016 Sarens teamed with KBR at Flint Hill's Corpus Christi refinery to install two large reactors and numerous modules and pieces of equipment over a ten month period. The primary challenge at this project was that the majority of the work occurred in a live refinery, with a number of the heavier lifts planned for a five-day turnaround during which the plant was shut down. This required intense collaboration between all stakeholders to minimize downtime and production losses.
- Installing World's Largest Shiploader (Louisiana, USA). In 2015, SunCoke Energy Partners' Convent Marine Terminal (CMT) invested $20 million to modernize and expand operations with the addition of the largest shiploader ever constructed. SunCoke enlisted the experts at Sarens to plan and perform the challenging job of erecting the massive shiploader at CMT. The shiploader arrived at the CMT site by barge in 10 pieces, and the heaviest of the pieces weighed 450T. To perform the challenging lifts, the Sarens team selected a Terex® CC 6800 crawler crane from its fleet along with a superlift wagon and ballast system. The crane was outfitted with the Sarens SARspin rigging system to help level the load through the use of four hydraulic cylinders.
- HB Robinson Stator Replacement (Hartsville, South Carolina). Working for Siemens, Sarens completed the change out of a stator at Duke Energy's nuclear plant in Hartsville, South Carolina. This involved the design, fabrication and operation of the stator lift system. As is now the norm within the nuclear industry, a separate test lift using the designed lift system was carried out offsite at Sarens' facility in Rowesville, South Carolina.
Can you tell us more about the Champlain Bridge Project and its challenges?
The Champlain Bridge Project was challenging from the start. A special installation vessel had to be designed because standard lifting systems could not handle the combination of the following factors:
- Strong current
- High weights & specific dimensions of footing elements
- Very accurate positioning of footing elements in the river
- Shallow draft of the St. Lawrence River
With these specific factors in mind, we designed the Sarens FFI (Floating Foundation Installer). The following systems were incorporated in the design to cope with the above-mentioned factors:
- Thruster system for moving in high current
- Winch system for positioning of barge above foundations
- Strand jack system for lifting and lowering of footings
- Circular rail system for rotation of the footing elements
- Skidding system for precision position of the footing elements
With the addition of a global team of operational specialists, we were able to flawlessly position all footings safely and within the required tolerances.
We recently shot the first of its kind virtual reality video to showcase the Champlain Bridge Project. How do you envision the response?
I think this video is an excellent opportunity for viewers to "step inside" the application of a new installation technology developed by Sarens.
Interesting projects such as these led me to pursue my engineering degree and ultimately led me to a career in the heavy lift and heavy haul industry. I like to think that the next generation of construction innovators will be inspired by this immersive experience!
How do you visualize the existing market and its future outlook?
The past three years have been difficult, with decreased pricing for the major commodities driving a decrease in our customers' capital spending budgets. This has driven a trend toward investment in sustaining maintenance projects and smaller capital projects. With decreased numbers of oil and gas-related projects, we see future opportunities in large infrastructure and alternative energy projects.
What challenges do you foresee in this business?
The main challenges facing our industry are related to uncertainty surrounding project approvals and then short timeline between the owner's financial investment decision and the commencement of work. Both these challenges are driven by the uncertain investment climate and increased due diligence required by owners.
We are now being awarded large crane contracts for projects that start within weeks or months, whereas as recently as a few of years ago we were receiving a year or more notice. This puts a lot of stress on an organization's planning and processes. Fortunately, our position as one the largest heavy lift and heavy haul suppliers gives us the personnel and equipment to deal with rapidly changing operating environments.
Which sector do you think drives the growth of heavy lifting and transport business in North America?
Unfortunately, is very difficult question to address! Several years ago the answer was simple: large oil and gas-related projects. The current reality is that there are a number of drivers. While oil and gas projects remain important, we have had to focus on alternative sectors such as infrastructure or alternative energy projects.
What do you believe is Sarens' key strength?
The key is really Sarens' ability to visualize a complete solution to a customer's problem using multiple combinations of in-house techniques or equipment. We do not immediately assume that a crane is the only solution to a problem. By considering a number of options we are able to develop the safest and most economical solution for our customers.
Have you participated in any community initiatives?
We support many initiatives each year to demonstrate our commitment to the community we live in. These initiatives include environmental sustainability projects, health promotion, social welfare initiatives and many others.
Some specific examples include:
- Boyle Street Services. We made a donation towards a bus that goes around in the winter and provides food and shelter to those who are sleeping outside. It also transports people to a shelter downtown.
- KBR Charity Golf. The total raised by this event was $600,000, which went to worthy local and national nonprofits that align with KBR's charitable focus areas of education and health.
- Fluor Cares. Total raised by this event was $300,000 for local Houston charities like LifeHouse of Houston, Lunches of Love, Texas Sentinels Foundation, and Big Love Cancer Center.
- Women 2 Warrior. Woman2Warrior Easter Seals fundraiser raised over $60,000 to provide specialized mobility equipment for children and adults with disabilities and medical conditions, recreational opportunities at Easter Seals Camp Horizon, and a residential program at Easter Seals McQueen Residence for 9 adults with physical disabilities.
Thank you, Mike Hussey, for sharing your insights on the North American region. Sarens is proud to have you as part of our greater global team!