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CHC Latin America Ups the Collective

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Since being appointed Regional Director of Latin America in 2016, Marcelo Luiz Da Silva Soares has guided CHC Helicopter’s regional operation to a much more efficient, lean organization committed to the highest standards of safety and quality.

CHC has a proud track record of operations in Latin America, dating back to 1992, but is now looking to the future with growing confidence following several contract wins in 2018.

“Customers recognize the operational benefits of CHC’s global safety and quality standards,” says Marcelo. “There is no difference between how we operate our aircraft across Latin America and how CHC operates in Africa, Europe or Asia. Industry standard safety initiatives, such as HUMS, have been in place for several years across our Latin American operations, as has Flight Data Monitoring, which CHC applies to all its offshore transportation services.

“The next stage in the evolution of our safety standards is the adoption of Line Operations Safety Audits (LOSA) in Brazil, as part of CHC’s global roll out. That training program has already begun, with the training of our observer aircrew already underway.”

With approximately 450 people employed across the region, and a diverse fleet of 22 aircraft dedicated to supporting offshore oil and gas customers, CHC’s Latin America operations are focused in and around Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state.

“As with the wider global oil and gas industry, helicopter services in Latin America have been through an exceptionally challenging time in recent years,” explains Marcelo. “We’re seeing signs of recovery in the marketplace, but even today, regional activity is still down. We’ve had to become ever more responsive to customers, and competitively priced, while maintaining our focus on safety and quality.”

Today, CHC operates a mixed fleet of Sikorsky S-76 and S-92 aircraft, as well as Leonardo AW139s, although several contract wins in recent months will see the gradual replacement of S-76s with latest generation S-92s.

Flights to/from the Campos and Santos basins operate out of four key bases in the region: Jacarepaguá, a domestic airport in Rio de Janeiro city; Cabo Frio; Benedito Lacerda Airport, in Macaé; and Bartolomeu Lisandro Airport in Campos. Operations from Jacarepaguá were expanded at the start of 2018 with the announcement of a new two-year contract win with Equinor to provide a dedicated S-92 service to its operations in the Santos Basin.

That contract win was followed by a further contract award for Shell in March, with two AW139 aircraft operating out of a new base at Bartolomeu Lisandro Airport in Campos. “We’ve since been able to expand our operations at Campos, after we secured a significant contract with Petrobras to provide a further five aircraft,” adds Marcelo. “Three of the aircraft will be AW139s, marking the entry into service of the aircraft type for Petrobras, while the balance will be provided through S-92s. The expanded Campos fleet will be in place within the next three months.”

Approximately 70 percent of CHC flights in the region will operate through either Campos or Jacarepaguá, reflecting the importance of the recent growth, which has seen the overall fleet increase by nearly 10 percent.

“Perhaps our biggest achievement in recent years has been in diversifying our customer base,” says Marcelo. “We now provide flights for seven customers across the region: Petrobras, Shell, Equinor, Queiroz Galvão E&P, Seadrill, Modeq and our newest customer Ocyan.”

Marcelo continues: “Despite challenging market conditions we have proven our ability to secure new business, remain competitive while adding considerable value and flexibility to our customers’ operations.”

Maintenance capability

With crew transfers varying between 30-40 minutes to the more mature near-shore fields and up to 75 minutes for flights out to the ultra-deepwater pre-salt basin developments, average flight times are relatively short.

In line with CHC’s commitment to reach beyond when it comes to safety, Latin America has developed an extensive maintenance capability designed to ensure safe operations and maximize aircraft availability.

While most bases have the ability to conduct light maintenance and aircraft turn arounds, the majority of heavier base maintenance is delivered through CHC’s Cabo Frio base, which has a 6,500m2 hangar and includes significant workshop and warehouse facilities.

“Most of our maintenance engineering capability is based there, providing deeper maintenance and inspections on our aircraft. However, we also have enhanced maintenance capability at our Macaé base,” explains Marcelo. “Here in Brazil, we are able to cover the majority of our maintenance, such as replacing an engine, a gearbox or blades, but extensive component overhauls are done outside of Brazil.

“That wider maintenance capability utilizes CHC’s global engineering network, including our global centers of excellence for S-92s and the AW139, both based in Europe, as well as the overall capabilities of Heli-One in Europe and Canada.”

Looking to the future

With confidence slowly returning to the region, as evidenced by the recent levels of interest in the latest offshore licensing round, which saw significant activity from Equinor, BP, Total, Chevron and Shell, Marcelo believes CHC is well positioned to capitalize on future regional opportunities.

As business activity picks up, CHC Latin America is also seeking to ensure the local communities in which we operate begin to benefit from the emerging recovery. CHC already works with several local groups, helping to provide warm clothing and food, especially during the winter months. “It’s something we feel passionate about,” adds Marcelo. “As the recovery continues to gain momentum, we will be looking at ways to work with rural areas in and around Campos and Cabo Frio to see how we can best support a sustainable future not only for our business, but the communities close to where we work and live.”

Marcelo continues: “Thanks to our strong client relationships, especially with Petrobras, Equinor and Shell – all the major players in the region – we have a strong foundation upon which to build future success. Recent wins have underlined the value clients place on our service, global standards and value-added offer, as well as our ability and willingness to be flexible. As the marketplace continues to recover, those opportunities will only continue to grow.”