The word ‘resolve’ has multiple definitions, but two of the more commonly used meanings are ‘to settle or find a solution to a problem’ and ‘firm determination to do something.’ Both definitions fully apply to Resolve Marine, a global maritime solutions provider with a large presence on the West Coast.
Resolve, which has particularly large operations in Alaska, offers a range of services for commercial fishing boats, container ships and other types of vessels. They include emergency response, marine salvage and fire response, wreck removal, diving and underwater surveying, vessel stability modeling and remediation, coastal erosion control and recovery, wreck deposition, lightering, towing and damage-assessment services.
In an exclusive interview with Fishermen’s News, Todd Duke, the company’s Anchorage-based general manager of compliance services, said that Resolve has been heavily investing in cutting-edge equipment and technology over the past year or so. One of the points of emphasis? Drones.
“We just use them as basically surveillance and identification,” he said of drones. “So, if you’re looking at oil on the water and you’re using an infrared lens on the drone, you wind up (with the oil) being a different color. Water is going to look cooler than oil (will) on top of water, oil of any thickness. So we’ve just been using drones to identify where oil might be and the size of the oil spill.”
He said that drones have proven to be a much more efficient solution that using manned aircraft to survey oil spills from the sky.
“They’re much more portable, they’re easier to deploy than a larger aircraft, and of course if something does go wrong, you’ve trashed a $6,000 drone, not a $6 million aircraft with people in it,” Duke explained, adding that infrared technology is also a big advantage.
“We utilize the infrared technology quite a bit when we’re looking at salvage (operations), we’re looking at oil spills, we’re looking at vessels on fire, that sort of thing,” he said. “Even if it’s ambient temperature, you still see the differences, so you can tell where the oil is versus where the water is, and that’s perfect for night, when you can’t see anything at all. It makes surveillance a whole lot easier.”
Resolve has purchased a couple of drones and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in the past year as part of a push toward improving operational safety.
“Over the last five years, we’ve steadily been adding stuff and buying different models as our operators mature with some of the technology and you get good at it, so you buy more robust, more expensive models or you come across a project (and) you need different capabilities, as well,” Duke explained. “We bought some ROVs as well as leased some heavy duty ROVs for a couple of projects. We’re really utilizing robotics instead of humans, more for safety a lot of times.”
Resolve has made investing in technology and equipment a priority company-wide over the past couple of years, with the total spent exceeding $1 million just in Duke’s area.
“That number’s huge across Resolve’s company, but in Alaska alone, we’ve done about $1.2 million in investments in equipment for spill response and emergency response,” he said.
In addition to its Anchorage location, other Alaska cities and towns where Resolve Marine has operations include Dutch Harbor, where about 40 employees work, and Kodiak, where the company has a vessel and equipment depot. In all, Resolve has nine equipment depots across Alaska, Duke said.
“All the way from Nome to Seward, if you will, and all the way out to Dutch Harbor,” he remarked. “We’ve got equipment scattered all over Alaska, we’ve got equipment scattered all over the West Coast.”
“I have a depot and probably a dozen employees in the greater Seattle area and then we have an engineering division whose department is in New Orleans,” he continued. “We have a big deepwater port in Mobile, Alabama, the corporate headquarters is located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, we have 22 equipment depots across the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.”
“And then we’ve got probably another eight offices across the world,” he said. “We’re pretty spread out. You have to go where the ships are and be available for them whenever you’re in the emergency response business.”
“We invested a ton of money in equipment here in Alaska and we’ve just built three new depots this (past) year for spill response; it’s more equipment in Alaska and more investment in order to protect the Alaska environment and protect the fisheries, because if you have a major spill, the fisheries are going to close, and that’s an economic hardship on all of us. And so having more equipment and more personnel and training is better than not.”
Bigger vs. Smaller Vessels
Duke said that when it comes to responding to emergencies, vessel size and type definitely matter.
“Towing a fishing vessel is honestly a little bit easier because the gear size is smaller. You’re dealing with smaller vessels (rather) than a thousand-ton container ship where you’re dealing with heavy wire and stuff,” he explained. “We’d much rather tow fishing vessels; a lot of times they are dealing with something simple like nets or something wrapped around their wheel whereas the big ships oftentimes have serious mechanical casualties that require them to be towed to a port where they can get some engine work or something like that.”
“Bigger ships obviously take bigger gear, but (often) when a big ship—containership or whatever—has a casualty, they’re pretty far offshore and there’s time to get to them,” he remarked. “Many times, fishing vessels are relatively close to shore just because that’s the fishing grounds. And so having the ability to get to them quicker is important, as well as making sure that we ourselves don’t wind up aground or something like that because they’re out there in the shallows.”
“Towing is pretty much towing (but) one thing is, the Coast Guard has passed a rule in the last few years: you are supposed to have a towing safety management system in place. What that’s done is that these fishing vessels shouldn’t be out there towing their partners around, because it is a relatively dangerous operation that you need to be skilled in.”
That was a reference to how in 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard established inspection standards for towing vessels, known as Subchapter M. Under the standards, most towing vessel operators were required to obtain certificates of compliance under the new mandates by July 20, 2018.
Subchapter M outlines towing-vessel safety regulations for inspections and standards and options for safety management systems. The regulations apply to all U.S.-flag towing vessels that push, pull or haul alongside, with some exceptions. Those include assistance towing vessels, and workboats operating in work zones.
Duke said the regulations were needed and are useful.
“There have been cases where towing vessels trip over the vessel being towed—it’s called tripping your tow—and sinking another vessel. That’s the whole reason why these Subchapter M regulations are in place,” he stated.
“It’s akin to having a friend tow your car or having a professional towing outfit tow your car,” he explained. “Towing your car by your friend down a highway on a rope is asking for trouble a lot of times.”
Resolve Marine also has participated in an evaluation of an emerging technology, nanoparticles. The project examines the use of “nanoparticles to pull oil from the water column,” Duke said.
“There is a large amount of work being done in the field of identification and location of spilled oils particularly under ice, however none of that technology is commercially viable yet,” he said.
Although he wasn’t able to reveal much more, he did note that other participants include the University of South Carolina’s Center for Environmental Nanoscience and Risk and Center for Oceans and Human Health and Climate Change Interactions.
“We’ve talked regarding ‘this is what we do in a normal case (and) these are the situations where we think this new technology would be really useful to us,’ and then they’re going back and refining some of the new technology,” he said. “It is highly interesting.”