Vikoma International is a world-leading name for oil spill solutions. Based on the Isle of Wight, UK, the company began following the 1967 shipwreck of the Torrey Canyon, a crude oil tanker chartered by BP that ran aground off the coast of Cornwall. The Torrey Canyon incident was the world’s first commercial oil spill and, because of this, effective clean up equipment had yet to be developed. BP gathered a group of experts to develop ways in which to eradicate the slick, leading to rudimentary versions of common clean up tools used today including booms and skimmers. Whilst the Torrey Canyon operation proved a failure – the Government eventually opting to bomb the vessel and set fire to the spill – the team of experts went on to form Vikoma as a company dedicated to innovating oil spill response equipment.
For more than 40 years, Vikoma has led the market by innovating efficiency and reliability into booms, skimmers, pumps, dispersants, storage tanks, power packs and even vessels. Constantly working on new products to meet changing customer and environmental demands, the company has recently launched three very different yet equally impressive products.
Sales manager Peter Hoyle discusses why they were brought to the market: “The first of the three is the extreme environment hydraulic power pack for skimmers, pumps and other powered systems. A Ministry of Defence (MoD) procurement company approached us to design and engineer a range of power packs that the MoD could use for aircraft refuelling equipment in extreme temperatures, such as the cold of high altitudes or the heat of the desert. We designed and tested it to fulfil all military requirements within a temperature range of -40 to +59 Celsius. Since first developing it many have been sold to the MoD but we have also realised that with the increased amount of drilling in polar regions, these power packs would be ideally suited because they will work first time every time in such temperatures.
“The second product is the Komara Star Multiheaded Skimmer. It is a new version of the existing Komara Skimmer series, which is designed for oils with heavy viscosity. This new version has a multiple head addition so that it can take both a brush and disc bank. That means it is able to use a brush bank to recover spills of one centistokes such as light kerosene’s, or swap out the brush for a disc bank to collect the heavy crude oils up to one million centistokes. This increases the operating range of one Komara unit so that customers do not have to buy two or three different types of skimmers, therefore giving it a massive advantage over competitors.
“Our latest product, which was launched at Interspill 2012, is the Super Hi-Sprint. It is a boom that we think is set to revolutionise the way oil containment booms work. The Vikoma boom range focus on low pressure inflation as this allows better wave following characteristics therefore meaning that the boom is not compromised by waves and oil cannot get over or under it. The Super Hi-Sprint continues the low-pressure tradition but uses special adaptors to allow it to be filled by a high-pressure inflator. This means it a 250-metre section of boom can be filled in less than ten minutes by just one operator and can be retrieved by two people in less than 15 minutes. Furthermore, it has no exterior valves to alleviate the chance of catching and tearing. The Super Hi-Sprint thus drastically saves on the manpower and time it takes to handle a boom. It was launched at Interspill and we are now in the process of working out who to sell the first product to.”
The extreme environment power pack, Komara Star Multiheaded Skimmer and Super Hi-Sprint illustrate the diversity of Vikoma’s range and its comprehensive approach to spill solutions. These are set to be as well respected by the market as the company’s previous products, which have become a touchstone for countries and companies across the world.
It is not just the range of equipment available from Vikoma that sets it apart, however, but the quality of every product and individual unit. The hidden valve of the Super Hi-Sprint highlights the forethought put into its products, whilst the use of high-grade neoprene across its boom range was chosen to provide long-term durability. Everything is carried out in-house at Vikoma’s Isle of Wight factory including design, engineering, procurement, sales and marketing, and even accounts, whilst all components are manufactured in its workshops. With no aspect of the product or process outsourced, the company is able to guarantee the best quality possible across its portfolio.
“We have recently moved into a new £2.5 million factory that was custom built for the company and its specific needs today,” Peter says. “When we are making 50 metre sections of boom, for example, a lot of space is required. The old factory was built when the firm was much smaller and as it expanded, it basically just added new buildings to the site, but these were no longer fit for the scale of work we do today. This new purpose-built facility is very impressive and enables us to carry everything out under one roof. We were in the middle of moving factories when the Macondo / Gulf of Mexico oil spill happened; moving site is frantic enough but doing it during the largest oil spill in history was unparalleled and really like a baptism of fire for the new factory. However it was ultimately a good thing because it meant we still had the old factory to work in as well as the new factory to overload our capacity with. This led to making a substantial volume of equipment in a very short space of time.”
Vikoma has had its fair share of contracts during the last 18 months, managing to secure substantial orders such as a high volume order for booms by the Australian Maritime Safety Association (AMSA), which has seen the factory working to capacity for the last few weeks. Vikoma’s reliability and quality has stood it in good stead with the company hitting good targets and seeing consistent year-on-year growth whilst winning awards for an apprenticeship scheme that supports the local community. The rapidly growing success of parent Energy Environmental – that this year was listed on The Sunday Times’ Fast Track 100 – illustrates the advantages possessed by the company.
As Peter highlights, there is plenty for Vikoma to look forward to: “We’ve currently got some substantial orders in the pipeline and of course are about to launch the Super Hi-Sprint, which we expect to be very popular. Another thing we expect to see a big push on soon is the extreme environment power packs. These are pieces of equipment that can really change oil spill practice, one by working in environments that have never been thoroughly tested before – the Polar regions – and the other massively streamlining common day-to-day practices.
“Our five year plan for the company is just to keep growing. Our new factory will facilitate this. As one of the market leaders at the moment we believe that both Vikoma and Energy Environmental can continue to grow at the rate that we have been doing so over the last few years. That will let us have a much stronger brand presence and hold on the market.”