Maritime film is the passion project and brainchild of Ian Biles. Ian has worked on an off in the film industry as a subcontractor for various marine coordination companies including Ian Creed of Ocean Films and Darren Bailey of AquaFilms and JJ Stickland of Marine Department Ltd.
Ian has always been called in to solve the more nuanced problems that his distinguished career has given him plenty of experience resolving.
Typically, this involves dealing with challenging bureaucrats and speaking their language of regulatory restrictions and health and safety mandates. Although these aspects can be odious to deal with, they are necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the boats and the crew and to provide reassurance to insurance companies that every possible risk has been considered, catalogued and mitigated.
Ian has been in the marine industry for just over 46 years, starting as a Seafarer with the RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary). He fell in love with the sea and spent the next 15 years sailing the ocean blue working his way up and gaining his Master’s ticket. Ian then migrated over time to the Ministry of Defence salvage department and discovered that he was not meant to be a civil servant, sitting behind a desk, and chose to head back to sea for more adventure.
He found himself on Sealink Isle of Wight Ferries, driving the short distance from Portsmouth to Fishbourne. Next transitioned into Cross-Channel Ferries for Townsend and Thoresonand P&O, then on to Seaforth Maritime, based in the North Sea running the supply and anchor handling vessels. For variety he also spent a month on a seine net fishing vessel out of Grimsby to witness first hand just how demanding it can be.
Next was training vulnerable and disadvantaged youths on a variety of Sail Training Programmes, giving underprivileged children a chance to learn new skills and to develop their character and a sense of achievement. Ian’s desire to educate continued past the three years spent on board.
Ian then moved to the commercial sector once again and took a job with Shell International Marine. This role was as a Naval Architect, evaluating the design of double hull tankers and was responsible for the newbuild supervision of two LNG ship in Japan.
Having worked with Shell for three years Ian decided it was time to branch out on his own, which led him to starting the first of many businesses Maritime Services International Limited (MSI).
Maritime Services International was a chance to do anything and everything, no longer restrained by corporate vision he could build his own. The company specialised in general condition surveys of dry bulk ships, ferries, tankers, gas ships, riveted ships, dinghies, yachts and superyachts both sail and power. The company developed operational risk assessments of superyachts and provided superyacht management. It provided consultancy expertise for the port marine safety code, crew recruitment and for double hull tankers. Ian personally conducted expert witness work and testimony for multimillion pound claims, (and won). The cases were varied covering anything from port safety, speed and consumption, deviation, vessel repair, new building quality, repair quality, personal accident and injury, professional negligence, technical specifications, ship repair, and repair following salvage. This gave him and Maritime Film a great insight into the common pitfalls, and how to minimise such problems happening in the future.
MSI and the growing team, conducted damage surveys on superyachts, refrigerated ships, tankers, ferries and yachts. They also did cargo surveys, anything from bananas to heavy machinery and fertiliser (urea).
One aspect of MSI’s work, which would definitely be considered to be the coolest was also boat repossessions, otherwise known as snatchbacks. When an Owner of a vessel forfeits to the bank and the bank needs to repossess the boat they send in the team. They would fly anywhere in the world taking large amounts of cash with them, legally entering a boat and effectively pay off the crew to take the vessel back to its true Owner, now the bank and sail it to a location of their choosing. An escapade that most rightly would belong in a film was just another facet of their business.
Ian also went on to lecture in the Naval Architecture and Stability, marine surveying, yacht surveying cargo surveying, marine casualty management and surveying GRP. His passion for professional development led him to the creation of Maritime Training Academy Ltd (MTA) and The Training Academy (TTA), the former delivering distance learning courses and the latter bespoke in person training in conjunction with MYBA, in the south of France every year, for the last 16 years.
MTA provides over 35 courses in various marine industries covering anything from LNG ships, to project management and Offshore Wind Energy. These range from diplomas and certificates to short course. The reputation has developed and has become internationally recognised within the global community.
With all this technical know-how, Ian and MSI’s services were first required on “The Boat That Rocked”, otherwise known as Pirate Radio, featuring Bill Nighy and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Their services were engaged by Ronaldo Vasconcellos, to help rescue the Timor Challenger (the boat used in the film) having been detained by the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency (MCA) for multiple breaches of safety regulations. Ian spent two weeks rectifying most of the safety breaches on the vessel to allow it to sail, having spoken and reassured the MCA to ensure that all relevant risks were mitigated and that they were happy that it was fit to set sail. It was on this job that Ian first met Ian Creed and Daren Bailey at the time both of AquaFilms. From that point forward both Ian Creed and Daren Bailey would call on Ian and MSI when they required the specialist skills that Ian has to aid in the marine coordination of feature films.
To date Ian has worked on nine more productions in conjunction with both AquaFilms and Ocean Films as well as Marine Department run by Jonjo Stickland. Although he an unaccredited he has worked on Robin Hood, Monuments Men, The Man From Uncle, The Mercy, Hampstead, Dunkirk, The King, The Northman, and the upcoming Game of Thrones spin off. Most of the work MSI has completed for these films has been based around the safety aspects and the communication between the Film Production Department and the MCA.
Having worked on multiple productions Ian is certain that with all of his technical know-how, training, expertise, business acumen, connections and set up he can be successfully be employed in an offering for a Marine Coordination company to rival the very best.
With 46 years of experience at sea on all types of marine craft from small sailing dinghies to large supertankers from superyachts to hovercraft from canoes to jet skis Ian is one of the most qualified and experienced mariners there is. His experience in nearly every type of marine environment has given him the understanding of the challenges faced when turning an idea into a practical reality in the challenging environment that is the sea. His experience means he knows what will work to achieve safety whilst maintaining artistic vision.
As a surveyor he has excellent working relationships with numerous brokers. With these numerous contacts he can identify and charter the vessels suitable for any genre or period look. Procurement of vessels is a challenging affair. Given the complexities of vessels with Ian’s technical background he can endeavour to head off unexpected surprises that incur expense and create delays can be headed off before they become a problem.
When purchasing vessels his survey experience can differentiate between a vessel worthy of purchase or charter and one that should be avoided. Whilst working on Robin Hood he identified the LASH barge that was used as the model in the film for conversion and oversaw the conversion project.
Through the work of Maritime Services International, Maritime Film (MF) has an extensive pool of technical professionals from which to draw expertise from. MF can provide Naval Architects who can undertake the necessary design and structural calculations to make changes to vessels safely if required. They can ensure that vessels are stable and have adequate margins of stability to undertake the intended task.
Ian is a qualified Master Mariner with a valid Certificate of Competence to allow him to take Command of almost any vessel anywhere in the world. He is also a qualified Ocean Yachtmaster under sail and a Personal Watercraft Instructor. He is an experienced dinghy sailor, windsurfer, canoeist and a qualified Sports Diver and HSE Dive Supervisor (although now time expired). His experience enables him and Maritime Film to understand the challenges of launching and recovering boats in different situations, locations and environments and of transferring personnel between vessels whilst afloat. He understands the importance of access, ground stability, tides, currents and environmental conditions for operation both in on or under the water.
Other personnel within the company have a wide range of professional qualifications related to marine activities, also having a diving coordinator with a large support crew of professional divers.
Experience allows Ian to know what makes a competent person in the marine field because he has generally been there and trained them and has a large network of respected professionals to aid in any task around the world. Ian and MSI have and continue to operate in 78 different countries worldwide. The company’s marine surveyor network operates in 37 different countries. This gives access to excellent local marine knowledge and experience in different locations.
Mariners have long been an integral part of the logistics chain and understand the needs of transporting goods from one location to another. This includes heavy lifting operations using cranes and derricks, loading, stowing and securing of equipment and people, and also enables MF to know where best to dispose of equipment (ship and boats) in a legally and environmentally responsible manner.
After starting MSI in 1988, Ian has progressively built and developed the Perplexity Marine Group of companies. This has given him the experience to understand the importance of budgets, cash flow, and profit and loss, as well as financial reporting that any production might require.
Ian has a Master’s degree in Business Management and understands the management of people from first-hand experience in a leadership role, having also commanded 11 different vessels in a professional capacity, with significant experience in managing crews.
With all the experience, connections, and solid business infrastructure behind Maritime Film, we know that we can provide a first-rate Marine Coordination company, which can tackle any problem, and provide safe and efficient working practices to achieve any production’s needs.