Welcome to the second Brookes Bell newsletter for 2021. Last month was momentous for two reasons – the launch and official opening of our new industry-leading laboratory, which is already busy and securing new business across our specialist areas, and the acquisition of US based 3D Marine.
This acquisition is an exciting step for Brookes Bell, opening up US markets as part of our global growth strategy. To mark this, we have dedicated this edition of the newsletter to 3D Marine, as we welcome our new colleagues to Brookes Bell and start the process of integration.
We’ve taken the opportunity to talk to 3D Marine CEO, Dave Scruton, to find out more about the company, the type of work undertaken by the team, the exciting opportunities ahead and why this is such a good fit for both sides. Finally, we interview Dave himself in our ‘Meet the team’ slot, to get to know our new partner.
Slowly but surely, thanks to the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, we are beginning to plot our route back to ‘normal life’ but in the meantime we continue to deliver business as usual, providing the services our clients need regardless of the challenges and restrictions.
With this in mind, we’ve kicked off our webinar series for 2021 and Dr Martin Jonas will be talking about Cargo hazards under the IMSBC Code on 25 March.
Wishing you a safe and healthy month,
Anthony York, Chief Operating Officer
3D Marine and Brookes Bell - planning for the future
On 18 January 2021, Brookes Bell announced the addition of the US based marine consultancy 3D Marine as part of the company’s global growth strategy.
The move is part of Brookes Bells’ long-term strategy to service clients across the globe, giving the company an additional presence in Houston and Miami alongside its current offices in Liverpool, London, Glasgow, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.
3D Marine was established in 1989, by three master mariners from Liverpool, David Scruton, David Carlisle and David Marsh. All three had moved to Houston to handle the US based work of their employer Stanton Marine, a marine survey firm. Together they bought out the US side of the business and built the company 3D (the three David’s) Marine up from there.
Today, 3D Marine is a full-service consulting group, specialising in all aspects of marine transportation, offering vessel and cargo surveys, casualty, and marine engineering consultancy, in many ways mirroring the work and specialisms of Brookes Bell.
David Scruton, the CEO of 3D Marine when it was acquired by Brookes Bell, moved out to the US permanently in 1992. He explains that the company initially focused on a lot of P&I work, because as senior ex-seafarers, the three founding partners were ideally skilled and experienced for survey and investigation work, with many US firms favouring the UK seafarers experience and training above all others.
In those days, companies used Seafax to appoint a surveyor abroad and 3D Marine’s first big job was investigating a vessel that sunk after a collision near Port Maracaibo, Venezuela. From there the business grew and by the mid 1990s, 3D Marine was taking on more surveyors. Wherever possible the new recruits were master mariners, chief engineers or senior officers for the invaluable perspective it gave their surveying.
David Scruton says that he has been aware of Brookes Bell for many years, not least because coming from Liverpool it was well established in the city, but he was also close friends with David Spence, a Brookes Bell employee and they kept in touch over the years. There have long been synergies between both companies, and David says, he has on several occasions contacted Brookes Bell if there was a job requiring expertise that 3D Marine didn’t have.
By the late 1990s, 3D Marine was beginning to work more and more the expert witness field - work that has continued to grow. This work has developed, reflecting the very different legal system in the United States, with its federal and state court system, depositions and trials, but 3D Marine has built a solid reputation in this specialist area. Indeed, at the end of last year, of the ten surveyors based in Houston, seven of them are expert witnesses, one specialising in wind energy logistics.
Always focused on maritime, a large percentage of 3D Marine’s expert witness work is now personal injury, reflecting the more litigious nature of the US legal system, with the company usually acting on behalf of the shipowner or operator.
Looking ahead and working together
It was in 2019, when he was on a trip to the UK that Dave Scruton visited Dave Spence socially and got talking about plans for the future. The suggestion arose that 3D Marine could facilitate Brookes Bell entry into the US market, supporting Brookes Bell’s global growth ambitions.
David Scruton, CEO 3D Marine says: “I am obviously delighted that the company has been acquired by Brookes Bell, there have been approaches in the past, but this option offered the very best continuation for our staff, who are enormously valued and have been very loyal over the years. Now we have so much more expertise and resources to tap into, it really does take the company and our future to the next level.”
Over the years 3D Marine has worked around the US coast, and across South America, for a while the business had an office in Venezuela until the government of Hugo Chavaz forced its closure.
As a leading technical and scientific consultancy, Brookes Bell has unrivalled expertise in casualty investigation, forensic analysis, technical dispute resolution and expert witness work. This is combined with the latest cutting-edge in-house technology provided by the new in-house laboratory services, which will support the company’s expansion into new US markets.
Currently, 3D Marine’s Miami office primarily covers convenience cargo with a lesser focus on the region’s passenger market. However, moving forward using Brookes Bell’s experience from its work across Europe and Asia, and building on 3D Marine’s working relationships with Royal Caribbean and many of the other large operators in Fort Lauderdale and New Orleans, the company aims to significantly increase its market share in this sector.
The Houston office covers much of the energy, oil and gas markets offering a gateway to the Gulf, Mexico and South America. Houston also covers a lot of ‘brown water work’ ie. inland waters and rivers. The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000-mile (4,800 km) inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, carrying a huge amount of river traffic.
Many of the vessels in the region are barges, push boat or tug boats and unsurprisingly there are many collisions, groundings and injuries relating to these cargo carriers. Brookes Bell will work with 3D Marine to apply ‘blue water’ technology to this sector, potentially delivering new services and approaches for customers.
Similarly, the offshore industry has huge business potential, there’s a well-established crude and chemical tanker market and the LNG market is growing, with more LNG now being loaded in the US heading for Middle Eastern destinations.
The pleasure boat market is increasing too, several of 3D Marine’s staff are boaters and masters, experts in pleasure boat issues, there’s an increasing market for engineering work here, with many in the team able to specialise.
Shipbuilding is another growth area, and here Brookes Bell has significant depth of experience and discipline through its work in China through its Shanghai office, including experience in shipbuilding disputes which will readily transfer to the US market.
3D Marine’s Elliott Tulloch is acting as project manager for an Arctic/Antarctic ice classed cruise vessel, which has been built in Croatia and is currently undergoing sea trials. He will return to the Houston office in mid 2021 once the vessel has been successfully delivered to the owners/operators.
In all these areas Brookes Bell and 3D Marine combine to offer outstanding multi-disciplinary expertise to support further expansion into the US market.
David Scruton concludes that: “By bringing together the Brookes Bell and 3D Marine teams, we can maximise our synergies and make full use of our team’s depth of knowledge and reach of experience - it’s an exciting and unstoppable combination for both sides of the business”
John Gibson, Brookes Bell’s Director of Asia, who is currently overseeing the synergy between the firms, in the US adds that: “Brookes Bell’s focus is on developing their presence in the US markets and bridging the differences and similarities between America and Asia. Our shipyard and passenger vessel expertise, along with sophisticated tools for investigation offers immediate opportunities. We can apply the lessons learnt and experience gathered in Asia to grow our and improve business and trade difference – against the perception of any trade war.
“But it doesn’t just stop there, in almost every other sector Brookes Bell and 3D Marine will boost the service offered to our customers. I believe that, by applying the style of forensic investigation work undertaken in Asia and the UK, along with the existing position 3D Marine has in the US, the combined mix and mindset, will deliver the right package for our clients and grow our business significantly.”
Sign up for Brookes Bell webinars
Brookes Bell has launched its webinar programme for 2021, with the first webinar of the year being with Dr Martin Jonas, Director of Science UK talking about bulk cargo hazards under the IMSBC code (International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code).
Martin will examine the SOLAS and IMO cargo codes and will discuss how to identify bulk cargo hazards including cargo fire and explosion risks.
Cargo hazards under the IMSBC Code
The webinar takes place on Thursday 25 March at 09:00 GMT, to attend just RSVP – firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you’ve missed any of our previous webinars – don’t worry you can catch up here - subscribe to our YouTube channel and listen to our subject matter expert presentations and videos at any time that suits you.
Dirty Hulls and Defective Paint
How we can assist with hull fouling and paint disputes - biology will get you in the end! with Dr Penelope Cook, Managing Scientist and Judith Fergus, Marine Coatings Consultant
Ship powering and Speed Performance webinar
How the hydrodynamic performance clauses of a ship building contract and specification relate to the science of ship propulsion, with Bogdan Ganea, Specialist Hydrodynamics expert and Kieran Dodworth, Director of Naval Architecture
The Bank Effect
What is it, and real-world situations including vessel drift, non-solid bank and uneven channel, manoeuvring simulations and conclusions, with Nick Doherty, Senior Mechanical Engineer.
Meet the team - David H. Scruton
Dave Scruton was the CEO of 3D Marine USA, Inc. a full-service consulting group which was acquired by Brookes Bell in January 2021. He continues to live and work in Houston, Texas, helping to manage the transition and seamless integration of the two companies.
Dave is a Master Mariner (Unlimited), with 16 years practical seagoing experience up to and including Captain. He sailed on a variety of vessels including general cargo, heavy lift, bulk carriers, container vessels and offshore supply vessels (OSV), including towing and anchor handling.
He has been appointed on numerous occasions as a Maritime Operations and Safety Expert in maritime disputes and is experienced in all aspects of maritime inspections and claims. Dave is also qualified by The Texas Department of Wildlife as a Boaters Education instructor and is experienced with pleasure craft, including jet skis and sailboats. He is an ex President of the Board of Directors for the Houston Maritime Arbitrators Association and has also acted as a Substitute Custodian during detainment of vessels. Here he tells us a bit more about his background, and his plans for the future.
I went to sea after finishing my A levels, joining the Liverpool-based Blue Funnel line / Ocean Transport and Trading in 1970. The Merchant Navy then was a very different life to what it is now. Containerisation revolutionised the industry in so many ways. I joined the Blue Flu’s (Blue Funnel) as it was nicknamed then and sailed with Ocean Fleets (Blue Funnel amalgamated with Elder Dempster to become Ocean Transport and Trading) for 12-13 years.
My first trip to sea lasted for just under six months, and we went around the world, the ship had 52 crew onboard, it spent a week in Hong Kong and a week in Singapore to name just a few long stays in various ports. The officers wore uniforms which included whites when in the tropics and we were served our meals by stewards on white linen tablecloths and Blue Funnel silverware – seems unreal now! Ten years later I did the same trip, the ship was significantly larger and crewed by just 20 seafarers, and the port turnaround times had sped up dramatically, spending just hours in Singapore and a few hours in Hong Kong.
In the 80s, when I was sailing on Blue Funnel and Elder Dempster general cargo ships, my wife was able to join us, we went to every port in West Africa, and numerous ports in the Far East, US and Central America. The days when your wife could join you at sea were really special, and in later years when you were at sea and she was at home with children it meant she actually understood what life at sea was really like.
Amazingly not so long ago, I went back to Liverpool for a reunion with other Blue Flu’ cadets from my year group and soon we will be celebrating 50 years since we first went to sea, they were incredible times.
However, at the time, the prospects for promotion were few and as a result when I was offered a job with another ship operator, I took it. Working with operators in the offshore industry I went on to qualify as first mate and then captain. But the industry had already changed enormously with containerisation, and so when I was given the opportunity to come ashore – to work as a surveyor, I jumped at it.
I moved to the States when I was 40 and it’s been both challenging and exciting building 3D Marine to the company it is today. I’m now 69 and it’s time to pass on the baton to someone else. Having said that, I am still working on cases, conducting vessel inspections, and testifying in depositions and at trials, it’s going to take quite some time to work through the ongoing files I have on my desk, and to be honest that’s the way I like it.
I enjoy the expert witness work we do, I’m that weird guy who really enjoys examinations and it’s the same buzz. You get the call, you learn about the case, and tell your clients the good, the bad and the ugly bits, and sometimes off the bat you need to give your expert opinion on these specific circumstances. I am totally confident that my professional opinions offered in these cases reflect the industry benchmark, because we regularly peer review our reports on cases in the office to make sure we are consistent and maintaining a solid industry standard.
My goal is to handover to my successor by the end of 2021 and then to enjoy some freedom, I have a motorhome in the UK and look forward to exploring, heading further afield into Europe perhaps.
When I am not working, I am a very keen Liverpool supporter. I’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, climbed as far as Everest Base Camp and I’ve played squash seriously and competitively for over 40 years. I now play something called Pickleball here in the US and my wife and I have a ski condo in Colorado as we are active skiers. I look forward to playing more golf and intend to continue being very active doing the things I love…and my first grandchild will be arriving very soon too – so there’s certainly lots to look forward to!
David Scruton is also a Minister for American Marriage Ministries. He has officiated three weddings to date, including participating in his own daughters’ wedding on the largest cruise ship in the world at that time “Harmony of the Seas”