Petrofac News 1700X397
04 October 2017

Sean Chapple: Petrofac’s very own ice man

Sean Chapple, our Group Senior Security Manager, is a man of extraordinary talents. He is a prolific polar expedition leader – as well as a published author and motivational speaker.

Sean joined the Royal Marines straight from school, and successfully completed commando training, the longest and toughest training course in the world. He was deployed on active service across the globe, becoming a specialist in desert, mountain and Arctic operations, before leaving to begin a career in corporate security in 2008.

His passion for adventure has never left him and he’s cultivated a prestigious expedition career, in which he trains and leads novice teams to complete record-breaking journeys. Today, Sean has more than 20 expeditions under his belt, earning him the nickname ‘the ice man’.

Sean is now based in our Sharjah office, and although the climates are polar opposites, there are definite similarities between Sean’s role at Petrofac and his passion for exploration.

Managing risks

Sean’s day job entails providing security oversight for the Middle East and Asia. It’s his responsibility to ensure that projects and offices have the appropriate risk mitigation in place to safeguard our people, equipment, assets and reputation against potential security threats.

This meticulous, disciplined approach to anticipating and managing risks is something that Sean attributes to his success as an explorer.

“When we plan for expeditions, we go through all the ‘what if’s’, trying to think about as many different scenarios and potential risks as possible. Some of those risks we choose to accept because the likelihood of them occurring is too remote. Other risks, such as a ski binding failing due to the extreme -50°C temperature, are both likely and would jeopardise our journey, so we would carry spares.”

Once the planning stage is over, the team training begins.

“Team training is crucial because it builds team cohesion, confidence and personal self-belief. Although you have to train physically for these demanding expeditions, what’s more important is training your mind.

“I tell my team to get on a treadmill and just walk, for three hours straight. You’re not only conditioning your body for that steady plod, but more importantly you’re preparing mentally.

“It can be mentally tough when you’re pulling a sledge for 12 hours in complete isolation. Although you’re walking together, you’ve got your hood up, your goggles on, it’s blowing a gale and it’s whiteout conditions – so in reality you feel very alone.”

Motivating others

“You don’t need to be a superhero to succeed on these high-risk journeys. Most of the people who have joined me on my expeditions have been ordinary people with a passion to embark on something extraordinary. With the right training and motivation, people can achieve remarkable things. I always try to emphasise this, to those that I lead, and in my books, and speeches.”

For as well as being a prolific explorer, Sean is also an author and motivational speaker. At first, Sean started sharing his stories and giving presentations on his trips at the request of friends. Interest in hearing about Sean’s arctic adventures snowballed, and Sean has now talked at hundreds of events, from mountain retreats in Kiev to corporate functions – including our own Contractor Safety Forum and the Petrofac Academy Learning Event.

“My aim is to share not only my experiences, but the leadership and team building insights I’ve gained from these expeditions, and how people can apply these techniques in everyday work life.

“If I could share one insight, it would be ‘respect individual differences’. We all view the world through a slightly different lens, and we have been shaped by different life experiences. Take the time to listen, and welcome the contributions of others. No one person has all the answers, all the time. Capitalising on such diversity is crucial to creating high performing teams.”

Pushing ahead

So will Sean ever hang up his snow boots?

“Definitely not. When that aircraft drops you off and flies away, it’s just you and your team, with all your life supplies on the sledge – and the nearest civilisation several thousands of miles away. That feeling of hope, trepidation and excitement is irreplaceable – I could never give it up.”

Sean is currently planning a winter crossing of Siberia’s Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world.

“I won’t be able to cross it on skis, because the prevailing winds do not allow enough snow to settle on the ice, so at the moment I’m trying to be innovative and might have to use skates and a kite.

“It’ll be a first for me, but that’s how I like it. I will always keep pushing myself, and keep exploring.”