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HCA in post-Covid takeoff

© Helideckshelidecks
Ekofisk platform

For international agencies with commitments across the globe, it has been a challenging 18 months – and that is true for Helideck Certification Agency (HCA), responsible for inspecting 800 helicopter landing platforms worldwide.

However, travel restrictions have allowed the Aberdeen-based business to develop and diversify. HCA has relaunched its website, developed its training offering, trialled virtual auditing, revealed expansion plans and advised on the design and location of helidecks.

As the leading authority on helideck operations in the oil and gas industry and offshore wind farms, HCA is responsible for safety inspections and certification of 700-800 helidecks. Not only does HCA contribute to the global helideck safety agenda, it also helps shape regulations by working closely with the National Aviation Authority.

Alex Knight, managing director of HCA, explained: “We carry out audits of the helicopter operating environment – not just the hardware. We ensure the safe operation of the helideck itself and all other systems including power, lighting, fire systems and people. We won’t issue a certificate unless there is a trained and competent helideck team on manned platforms.

“We are also responsible for around 90 unmanned platforms.”

Prior to worldwide travel restrictions, the HCA team – which is comprised of helideck inspectors plus office-based staff at Grandholm, Aberdeen – was travelling to Europe, Asia and South America to inspect helideck platforms, mobile drilling units and offshore support vessels to ensure facilities were operating at the highest standard.

So when Covid hit and HCA was unable to send inspectors abroad to renew certificates, this created new opportunities. HCA took on consultancy work and has been advising on helideck design for new-build vessels; reviewing hospital helicopter landing sites and making recommendations on the upgrade of a superyacht helideck – it has also trialled virtual audits.

The firm, which reported a pre-Covid annual turnover of around £2.5million, has suffered financially because it was unable to operate in Singapore, China and Korea – countries they visited monthly before the pandemic. But it has experienced an upturn in business recently.

With most European countries now accessible, HCA is back to around 50% of pre-Covid overseas work. Inspections have also resumed in Ghana and Barbados.

HCA is confident that when travel restrictions into countries like China (where a number of new vessels are currently being constructed) are lifted, the firm will be able to attract new business, as well as continue with its expansion plans in the Middle East, which was temporarily shelved during Covid. The firm’s modern new-look website should help.

Deputy managing director Dave Rae, who has been instrumental in creating the website, said: “We have refreshed our brand identity and launched our new website with a modern, vibrant look. We aim to let people know the full breadth of our services and market HCA across the globe as the premier provider of helideck expertise.”

HCA is currently building its training capacity and, by the end of 2021, will launch its e-learning offering for current and future helideck support staff.

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