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July 2020 marks a milestone for Osprey. We’re celebrating 25 years of client-focused change, incredible teamwork, and ongoing growth and development of our company.
25 years ago, we started trading as a Port Agent in Bristol. We had two key shipowner clients at the time, K-Line (bringing cars into the UK from Japan), and Grimaldi (bringing cars in from a variety of Mediterranean ports). Today, we’re delighted to say that K-Line and Grimaldi are still two of our key clients – their services have expanded each year and now we’re supporting them to ship 300,000 imported and exported vehicles. Our clients have grown and so have we.
For many of our clients today, we’re the frontline of shipping and logistics. Our teams get hands-on with every aspect to ensure everything goes to plan, 24/7, 365 days a year.
A PASSION FOR PROJECT CARGO
Our story started by helping great, local companies deliver their oversized goods into new overseas markets. Engineering companies specialise in design and manufacturing rather than the ins and outs of exports. Our strong relationship with shipowners enables us to provide client-focussed logistics – providing the support they need, project by project. Some companies were handling equipment and assets so large, they needed us to charter specialised vessels. Not surprisingly, we soon built a ship chartering business to focus on single-voyage, specialised cargoes.
Over the last 25 years, we’ve been on an amazing journey with our clients, witnessing the UK’s cost base increase and watching closely as globalisation changes the landscape of international manufacturing.
It was a rapid apprenticeship in international project cargoes that built the foundations and confidence of Osprey today. The journey started with UK companies fabricating in Eastern Europe, then the Middle East, North and South America, India and of course now China and the Far East. We applied the fundamentals of project-based transport engineering; we added great, hands-on project management by our internationally experienced teams; we factored in the local-insights we were gleaning about each location along the way – and these variables have become the key to a successful track-record of specialist logistics.
We’ve transported critical assets and specialist cargoes across every ocean, to every continent, and taken our innovation and transport-expertise to more countries than we like to remember – almost everywhere in fact, except the Antarctic (and we’re still open to that challenge).
THE FIRST 1,000 TONNES’ LIFT
It was designed in Bath, fabricated in Croatia, and delivered to the River Plate in South America – our first 1,000-tonne-plus lift was a 1,100 tonne ship-loader, for Rolls Royce’s Material Handling Division.
Size does matter, but not exclusively. Whether it’s whole sections of ships, offshore sub-stations for windfarms, subsea foundations or rail and road bridges and more. We’ve been transporting ‘super-sized’ equipment and assets over land and by water for a quarter of a century. We’re very proud of our work, helping to build and refocus the nation’s infrastructure.
The common denominator for all of these projects is their ‘critical’ characteristics. Each component is a one-off. There’s no room for error as ‘back ups’ or replacements are not an option. For a quarter of a century, we’ve been earning our clients’ trust, reminding ourselves that it’s a precious commodity – hard-won, easily lost, and a key ingredient in championing innovation.
MARITIME HERITAGE IN ACTION
Our experience showed us that, despite having a great maritime history, it has often been difficult for UK businesses to access the marine services they need. In an international arena, that puts us at a competitive disadvantage – we are an island nation that needs well-connected networks of transport infrastructure, now more than ever.
So, with support from the DTI, we bought a tug and a barge and established a base on the River Tyne. From there, we started providing marine services to East Coast based fabricators that needed to deliver their products to European customers. Barges may seem like a very basic vessel, but the way we use them – loading out massive structures and delivering them, often to offshore destinations – takes a high level of engineering skill and maritime competence.
Today, our fleet of UK-flagged and managed vessels trade mainly around Europe and Africa. Ship owning has become a dynamic and often intense part of our business. Our vessels are part of an evolving inventory that enables us to offer a truly door-to-door service: wharf-to-wharf, shore-to-ship, and factory to (sometimes floating) foundation – a logistical package for any specialist project cargo.
Loading and unloading project cargoes is usually done by lifting or via specialist vessel depending on the cargo. Our teams have accrued a significant amount expertise over the years, often using methods or approaches that seem counter-intuitive in principle but make perfect sense in practice. Recently, for example, where a ‘first glance’ solution for a project would have meant shipping a critical asset by sea – we delivered it using a combination of road transport and inland waterways. Far more control, far fewer risks (less expense too, and more flexibility to meet a demanding programme schedule). But every project is different, and we’ve taken that to heart.
Over the last 25 years, we’ve learned so much from our clients – they are all great engineers and designers in their own right. We provide the specialist logistics and transport-engineering that isn’t within their day-to-day remit. It’s a partnership that sees us simply working better together.
For many years, to embed that approach into our overall packages, we’ve been calling on our long-term partner and fellow family business, Allelys Heavy Transport, to undertake road movements on our behalf. We originally used third party cranes to manage lifts under our engineered schemes, but they didn’t always provide the high levels of service we wanted to promise to our clients – so we decided to own that problem and solve it in-house.
Osprey Heavy Lift was formed to provide reliable lifting and service to the right standard. Five years on and Osprey Heavy Lift is at the very top, both in terms of lift capacity and service, of the UK’s contract lifting industry – we’re regularly working in Europe and further afield, too. Everyone at Osprey is proud to have been listed in the Sunday Times SME Export Track 100 in 2019.
MULTI-MODE TRANSPORT AND ENGINEERING
Having the in-house expertise to operate on and offshore is an aspiration for many, but it’s not always a given for all. We know why. Blending the expertise of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers with Civil & Mechanical Engineers is one thing, but adding in the operators and the project management teams can be a real challenge – it’s where our family values have proven invaluable. Understanding how to work with so many different people, and to get the best from them, can lead to truly impressive results.
It’s often been said, “If you do what you love doing most for a living, you will never work again”. Multi-mode projects are what we love.
THE FUTURE – CONSTRUCTION LOGISTICS
The transition to a more efficient, low carbon economy is essential. The UK should take a confident lead in this transformation, not just in espousing its virtues but in delivering with the means to make a difference. Power and transport infrastructure must change. They must be built and rebuilt in an as-environmentally and financially efficient manner as possible. Efficient construction needs efficient logistics. There are important roles for modularisation here – and new installation methods will reduce local congestion and reduce the interference caused by construction at every site. Most industry sectors have already benefitted from substantial efficiencies in recent decades, but it’s not been the case in construction. We believe it’s time to change that – we’ve been watching the sector, working with it closely for a quarter of a century – and we can’t wait to take our clients with us on the next steps of the journey, over the next 25 years.
We’ll be there to transport and install the critical items, and to provide reliable construction logistics – meeting all of their project schedules, on time, with the highest levels of QHSE.
So, for the success we’ve experienced over the last 25 years, we’d like to say, ‘thank you’.
Thank you to our clients, for trusting Osprey to transport their critical items; thank you to our partners, for working with us so closely and having confidence in our appetite for sharing what we learn and promoting innovation; and thank you to our team – for all of their great, hard work.
We are always… better, together.