15th Jun 2021

In a previous blog I was asked to talk about my experiences in my first year of being General Manager of Francois Offshore Catering (FOC), and no discussion around 2020, and 2021 for that matter, can take place without mentioning COVID.

As an organisation, we pride ourselves on ensuring accommodation and living areas are cleaned to the highest standard, but COVID meant adding additional cleaning procedures, and more importantly being able to demonstrate these enhanced protocols to clients and their workforce, to provide reassurance in a worrying time.

One of the biggest challenges to overcome was the movement of employees around the world, at a time when countries were reacting to the crisis by closing their borders. This was a time when offshore workers and seafarers were more required than ever, to ensure goods continued to move around the world, and the lights stayed on through provision of fuel.

Rather than me explaining the procedures we put in place, I thought it would be more interesting to hear from our Operations Managers about their experiences.


As an operations manager currently responsible for two clients’ assets in Antarctica and the Mediterranean, the challenge has been to move personnel within the timeframes required to meet the rigorous COVID testing and country specific quarantine requirements.

This has been managed with help from our crewing and logistics teams working closely with our client’s logistics teams, with the safety of all personnel paramount in any decision making.

The position of strength we enjoy by being part of the wider Northern Marine Group was highlighted during the pandemic. Our sister company Clyde Travel was able to step in and provide support in the form of booking flights and accommodation for one of our clients when they were unable to make the necessary arrangements within their own organisation.

Travel is no easy task currently, but Clyde’s experience as a dedicated travel provider, specialising in crew travel, meant this was one hurdle we could overcome.

FOC have worked closely with both clients on the synergy of safety systems and have achieved an interface document and process to manage COVID. 

Offshore, we work within our clients’ processes, bringing our own experience and knowledge gained by operating on various assets and supporting a diverse international client base over many years.

The testing circumstances Covid has brought upon us have been difficult for us all, but they have also provided many invaluable experiences that has strengthened our knowledge and understanding, in turn making us a more agile and efficient offshore catering provider. 


Looking after a fleet of vessels in all corners of the world is a challenge in itself, but to then be faced with the COVID pandemic and all its associated complications was initially daunting, and we found ourselves dealing with new challenges daily.

We consider ourselves an integral part of our clients’ operations, and at the front line in terms of ensuring all accommodation areas receive the highest level of sanitisation.

As such, the crews’ daily duties had to change and adapt at speed, with new risk assessments, job routines and work schedules being drawn up, working closely with the client in order to have processes in place to secure and cordon off any areas, in the event COVID did occur.

The hardest part for myself was dealing with the employees’ mental health, as they are required to work even longer trips away from home with some having to quarantine before leaving and returning to certain countries. 

Our employees are our number one priority, keeping them safe and supporting them at all times. And part of that support came in the form of counselling, with many having to deal with the news of loved ones catching COVID back home, whilst they were offshore.

I believe what I and the company have learnt through this pandemic is invaluable and will continue to inform our work processes over the next few years as we continue to live with the shadow of COVID.  But thanks to the hard work and determination shown by our employees and management we are in a much better place than we were a year ago.

I once again would like to express my sincere gratitude to all our employees for adapting and supporting the business through this time, as they are key to our success and our clients.


As an Operations Manager for FOC looking after two vessels operating in South America, COVID has brought its challenges.

Mobilizing and demobilizing crew has required adherence to both Government and Company rules and regulations, and additional administrative work. These measures have been essential to keeping employees safe and limit the spread of COVID.

Due to additional required time spent in quarantine, employees are having to spend more time away from their family and friends, which can be mentally draining.

I’m very grateful for their commitment on behalf of our company, and we endeavour to do everything we can to support them during these trying times.

Every business is experiencing challenges, and COVID restrictions can often lead to delays in logistics and supply. Our onboard team have mitigated for these unforeseen delays through careful planning to ensure the vessels remain stocked up with enough provisions, including menu changes to ensure all nationalities onboard are catered for.

As difficult as the pandemic has been, and the fact it has lasted much longer than anyone anticipated, our employees have shown commitment and dedication to deliver a continuous and professional service, all whilst following the many additional procedures required to limit the spread of COVID.