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Vol. 12, No. 29 Week of July 22, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

PETROLEUM DIRECTORY: Marine service work done right in extreme weather conditions by American Marine divers

American Marine’s retrofitted, state-of-the-art dive support vessel, ‘The Shamrock,’ was designed for safe, effective diving operations in Alaska’s harsh waters

Q: Where is your company located? More than one location?

A: American Marine Corp. has offices in Alaska (Anchorage and Deadhorse) as well as Los Angeles, California and Honolulu, Hawaii.

Q: When was the company founded, who founded it, and what was its original name?

A: American Marine Corp. was founded in 1973 under the name “American Divers.” The company was started by three college friends — Scott Vuillemot, Robert Shahnazarian and Pat Wolter. Today, Scott Vuillemot oversees the Alaska and Hawaii regions and Robert Shahnazarian provides oversight for the California Region. Mr. Pat Wolter was killed in 1987.

Q: Who heads up your company, and who is on its senior management team?

A: The Alaska Region of American Marine Corp. is headed up by Thomas Ulrich, vice president. The senior management team is composed of five people:

Thomas Ulrich, vice president/Alaska regional manager;

Paula Lowther, contracts and compliance manager;

Steve Stuart, senior diving projects manager;

Rick Wilson, vessel operations manager;

Arthur Canilao, accounting manager.

Q: What is the company’s primary business sector? What services does the company offer?

A: American Marine Corp. is primarily a specialty marine contractor assisting companies with their marine service work. This can include oil companies doing routine maintenance and repair on their oil rigs and exploration and production facilities, communications companies that need underwater cable installed, or cities and boroughs needing port upgrades or dredging services.

Q: Who are the company’s main clients?

A: In Alaska, American Marine’s main clients are BP Exploration, ConocoPhillips, Forest Oil, XTO Energy, Tesoro, Shell, Pioneer Natural Resources and Teck Cominco.

Q: How many employees does your company have? How many in each of its locations?

A: American Marine employs about 40-50 people in each region and, during its peak seasons, 200-300 total.

Q: Does American Marine have subsidiaries? If so, what services do they provide?

A: American Marine Corp. has sister companies, Pacific Environmental Corp. and American Hyperbaric Centers. Pacific Environmental provides oil field and spill response services throughout the Pacific Basin and American Hyperbaric Centers provide hyperbaric medicine services in Anchorage, Wasilla, Honolulu and Maui.

Q: Describe your essential equipment in general terms.

A: American Marine uses cutting-edge technology in all of its fields of work, but is especially pleased with the recent retrofit of its state-of-the-art dive support vessel, “The Shamrock.” This vessel is specifically designed for safe and effective diving operations in the harsh Cook Inlet waters.

Q: Is your company expanding any of its operations and/or locations?

A: American Marine, in the last year, has opened a support office in Deadhorse, Alaska. This facility will help us accommodate our North Slope operators with their commercial diving and vessel crewing needs.?

Q: Is the company changing any of its services?

A: American Marine Corp. is expanding by providing more crew boat services on the North Slope. Last summer, crew boat operations began with providing transportation between West Dock, Oliktok Dock and Oooguruk Island on “the American Pioneer” for Pioneer Natural Resources.

Q: What is your company’s main strength, i.e. its edge over the competition?

A: American Marine’s greatest strength is the quality of its personnel and its commitment to safety, although truly we do not believe there is anybody else in Alaska who operates with the same standard of excellence in operations that American Marine does.

Q: What new markets, clients and/or projects did your company attract in the last year?

A: American Marine was able to showcase its ability to respond to any marine emergency any time of the year on Jan. 1, 2007. We received a call from a worried client who needed an underwater cable inspected and repaired near Kodiak Island. Battling extreme weather, the talented American Marine dive crew was able to inspect the cable, identify the problem and replace the damaged components in less than six weeks onsite.

Q: What is the most challenging job the company has undertaken?

A: By the nature of our work, American Marine tackles many challenging projects, but by far, the most complicated involve projects affected by extreme weather conditions. In 2006, American Marine worked on the Sitka Blue Lake dredging project where temperatures reached 9 degrees below zero in March — a usually seasonable time in Sitka — making it difficult to keep boat motors and equipment running in the constantly freezing water.

Early this year, American Marine was again down in the Southeast, in Haines, working on a dock maintenance project. Large, unexpected amounts of snowfall and frigid temperatures threatened to hamper completion of the project, but with perseverance and some luck, diligence and professional commitment, the project was completed on time.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to completing work the company undertakes?

A: The biggest obstacles American Marine faces are nearly always weather related — whether it is unseasonably cold conditions or the minimal operations windows that come with working in Cook Inlet: Often, slack water windows only last 30 minutes at a time, three to four times per day. With zero underwater visibility in Cook Inlet, it’s like working blindfolded and having only a few minutes to complete the required tasks.

Q: What do you see as American Marine’s biggest challenge in the next five years?

A: We see our biggest challenges as (1) attracting and maintaining a qualified work force committed to the goals of the company, and (2) as a company, committing to the goals of our valued personnel. Industrywide, we are facing an aging work force, and revitalizing this work force with skilled, experienced individuals with the same high work ethics we employ will be our greatest challenge.

Q: What do you see as future trends or opportunities for your company from, say, political events or long-term weather fluctuations?

A: Weather fluctuations have to be the biggest negative trend we are fighting. However, on the positive side, we see many business opportunities with the Anchorage Port Expansion project as well as the eventual natural gas pipeline.

Q: Does your company have an anniversary or other landmark event coming up?

A: In 2008, American Marine will be celebrating its 35th anniversary in business. Twenty years in Alaska will be celebrated in the year 2009.

Q: What is the average length of time employees work for the company?

A: Many of our senior staff members have been with the company for many, many years. We have a senior dive supervisor who has worked with American Marine since the office was opened in Alaska. Along with the original two founders of the company, our regional corporate compliance officer has worked for the company for over 30 years in the Hawaii region. Although turnover is a problem every company faces, American Marine has kept some of the best skilled Cook Inlet divers on its payroll for almost two decades.

Q: What is your company’s safety record?

A: American Marine has an excellent safety record and believes that success with this program is due in large part to the senior project managers who handle safety issues in the field as well as the medical surveillance program that ensures we put healthy people on the job who are capable of performing the specified work.

Q: Does your company or its partners or subsidiaries maintain websites?

A: American Marine Corp.; and

Pacific Environmental Corp.

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