As the shipping world continues on its journey to decarbonise and green technologies onboard vessels become the new norm, ensuring the workforce is upskilled and safe is key to a sustainable future. With the sector at an important intersection where traditional meets innovation, Colin Rushton, North Star’s Group HR and Crewing Manager says ensuring crews and onshore teams are supported is key to ensuring strong operational performance and a happy workplace.
Originally established to support the fisheries industry, North Star has evolved into the UK's leading provider of mission-critical offshore infrastructure support services in the North Sea. With a workforce of 1,300 crew and 130 onshore personnel in Aberdeen, Lowestoft, Newcastle and Hamburg, we’ve been a trusted partner in the energy sector since the 1970s; our fleet of 42 emergency response vessels provides round-the-clock support to over 50 UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) installations and we’ve never left a client unattended.
In recent months, we have also taken delivery of our first two of six initial newbuild service operation vessels (SOVs) for the offshore wind market as part of our ambition to add 40 hybrid-electric SOVS to our fleet by 2040.
With the energy sector’s gaze firmly fixed on the energy transition, North Star’s own growth and transformation is epitomised by the on-time delivery success of our first two of four hybrid SOVs for the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, firmly putting us on the map for our high-performance green tonnage, as well as expertise in project delivery.
But the move towards renewable energy is not just about technology; it's about people. To crew the Dogger Bank SOVs, we created a number of new and exciting career opportunities. For our first two ships, existing seafarers were offered a clear career development path and training programme to transition seamlessly to our new fleet. Remarkably, 60% of the initial 84 seafarers for the Grampian Tyne and Grampian Derwent were drawn from North Star's existing North Sea workforce, transferring not just skills but also the company's culture to the next generation of vessels within our comprehensive fleet.
Recognising the need to provide pathways for our existing crew, North Star implemented a robust advanced training programme in collaboration with industry bodies. This has rapidly equipped our team with the skills needed to operate our state-of-the-art tonnage safely and expertly, ensuring our personnel find meaningful and long-term employment. The training includes qualifications in workboat operations and best industry practices, also making North Star a pioneer in this area. Leveraging our experienced talent pool gives us a unique edge in terms of safety culture and standards onboard while ensuring all ships are operated and maintained to comply with relevant legislation and class-rule requirements.
North Star's commitment extends beyond its workforce to the local communities in the areas in which we operate. We believe in investing in local supply chains where possible and we’ve enjoyed great success working hand-in-hand with Southampton based naval architects Chartwell Marine and Great Yarmouth's Alicat Workboats. We have also employed a catering specialist team from Aramark for the new SOVs.
North Star's cadet programme, one of the UK's longest standing, invests approximately £1 million annually in training the next generation for deck and engineering roles. Continuing to attract increased female participation also aligns strongly with our diversity and inclusion goals.
During the transition, safeguarding well-being and promoting fair employment practices are non-negotiable for North Star. We remain laser-focused on upholding our employees' rights, ensuring safe working conditions, we have an open-door policy and regularly engage with our teams, as well as union representatives, listening to what their challenges are to ensure everyone’s voices are heard and interests are protected.
This is why North Star's sustainability vision, "doing the right thing for everyone," is more than a slogan; it's an assurance.