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OMC International can trace its history to the day when the then British Phosphate Commissioners contracted its Founder Dr Terry O’Brien OAM to work on solutions for mooring the phosphate ships in Nauru’s particularly deep port.

Dr O’Brien’s expertise grew out of his doctoral thesis on cable structures and related research on ship motions which was ongoing throughout his 22-year academic career at Melbourne University. His first appointment was with the Civil Engineering Department and followed his doctoral research at Imperial College London. During the later years he held a Readership in Systems Analysis in the newly established Centre of Environmental Studies. Early Environmental Impact Studies included the social andd economic impacts of the plans and development of Web Dock for the Port of Melbourne and the Western Port Bay environmental study.

In 1987 Dr O’Brien left academia to work full-time on the further development of his ship motion model (SPMS). He foresaw there was a market for such technology in the maritime industry in the area of under keel clearance, which was managed using fixed and necessarily conservative static rules. By 1992 Dr O’Brien had, with the support of Ports Corporation Queensland (PCQ), developed his ship motion model (SPMS) sufficiently for its installation and trialling in Queensland’s Hay Point coal terminal. For this 18-month period he set up office in Brisbane and his Dynamic Under Keel Clearance (DUKC®) system was fully implemented in 1993.

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In 1994 Dr O’Brien returned to Melbourne and, with the support of a small staff, he continued to refine his system as well as to maintain DUKC® installations which by the end of 1996 had grown to six Australian ports including Freemantle, Port Hedland and Brisbane. In the past four years, OMC has expanded from 11 to 19 ports worldwide.

OMC's pioneering DUKC® technology allows a more precise prediction of UKC in depth restricted approach channels to ports. In this vertical dimension (what you can’t see under the water), 1cm of increased draught can mean 130 extra tonnes of cargo load, which means a very significant contribution to safer and more efficient shipping has been made at these ports. Eighteen years on, the system is still unique worldwide.

Dr O’Brien’s son Peter, also a civil engineer, witnessed the early development of the DUKC® system during his post graduate years working with his father in Brisbane and Melbourne. Following this period, he was employed interstate by two major consulting engineering firms for six years. Peter then left for The Netherlands for further study at IHE, Delft and returned to Australia in 2000 with a Master of Science Degree (Distinction) in Port and Coastal engineering. He then rejoined OMC as the company’s General Manager.

Taranaki was the first NZ port to commission a DUKC® in 2001 and with more ports OMC moved to larger premises. Staff numbers were increased to meet this growth as well as to develop the innovations which attracted three large R&D grants from the Federal Government. In 2006 Peter was promoted to Managing Director, allowing Dr O’Brien to respond more actively to the increasing international interest in DUKC®.

OMC has strengthened this global presence by signing contracts with the Port of Lisbon in Portugal for an Operational DUKC® in 2007, and in 2008 with the Federal Waterways Administration in Germany for installations in the four ports of the Lower and Outer Weser River, including Bremerhaven which is the world’s 20th largest container port.

Consulting services have expanded considerably with OMC’s professional reputation and excellent track record. In the area of Channel Design, for example, millions of dollars in extra costs and possible environmental damage have been saved by the conjunctive use of a DUKC® system and optimised dredging.  

In 2008 OMC employed a former harbour pilot as its International Business Development Manager, Captain Jonathon Pearce, who oversaw the introduction of DUKC® into the New Zealand port of Taranaki. He brings onboard 30 years’ marine experience, including 11 years as a harbour pilot. An office has also been opened in Perth, WA.

In October 2008, OMC opened an office in the UK at Howbery Park, headquarters of HR Wallingford, a leading European hydraulics research institute. The opening of this office reflects OMC’s growing workload in Europe.

Continuing to strengthen its global presence, OMC opened a new office in South America in March 2010 and in February, 2011 the company announced that it had won its first North American contract, a DUKC® desktop study, for the Columbia River Bar, a treacherous waterway known as the ‘Graveyard of the Pacific’.

OMC now employs a team of more than 30 highly trained engineers, naval architects and software/IT personnel across the three offices, including a dedicated 24/7 Support Team.

  • In June 2010, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, OMC Founder and Executive Director Dr Terry O’Brien was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to the maritime transport industry.