[Portrait] Nicolas, Propulsion Work Package Manager on Suffren

Nicolas Burban

12 May 2022 Submarines Story

After several weeks in Toulon, the nuclear attack submarine (SSN) Suffren is back at sea after its first “intense” Mid Cycle Docking (IE01). At just 30 years of age, Nicolas is a Work Package Manager (WPM) for Propulsion on this first of series. Check out his portrait.

He calls Suffren his “baby”. And for good reason. This Naval Architect joined Naval Group at the age of 22. After an internship in Lorient, he learned his trade in Cherbourg on the Barracuda submarine class, continuing to work on this program right through to the sea trials. “The idea of accompanying Suffren to Toulon gradually emerged,” he recalls. “For me, it was an opportunity to discover Through Life Support (TLS), a field that I was also very interested in, while continuing to work on a product that I know by heart and that I am passionate about”.

And, in the summer of 2020, Nicolas escorted the SSN during its transfer to Toulon,  where he was appointed Work Package Manager (WPM) for diving safety, and then WPM for propulsion in 2021. “There’s no risk of feeling bored with this job!” he laughs. The job consists in doing everything possible (in terms of human and technical resources, tools and supplies) to ensure that the corrective and preventive work and capacity upgrades carried out on the ship's propulsion system run smoothly. His job involves going on board several times a day to monitor the progress of the work and address any problems, always ensuring that the project remains on schedule. “Unlike the essentially theoretical work of a naval architect, the role of WPM is very hands-on. It is also extremely rich from both a technical and a human perspective, as we interact with many people, including the French navy.

As such, we are directly confronted with all operational issues. Finally, we quickly see the results of our actions and decisions, much more so than during the design of a submarine, which is a rather lengthy process.” Pending the handover of Suffren to its crew, “each work line constitutes a small challenge”. Moreover, while a number of employees from the new construction teams have come to help with specific issues, the teams from the Services division are now fully responsible for this Mid Cycle Docking. They are highly motivated indeed, united by “a passion for the product”.

Nicolas insists, “We all get along well, working closely together to ensure the success of the program. What matters the most to us is that the French navy is fully satisfied with the Suffren’s operational capabilities, especially within the geopolitical context that will surround its entry into active service.” So, what’s next for Nicolas? “From July 1 2022, I will take up duties allowing me to obtain an overview of the technical scope of SSNs, as program batch manager for the MCO of Suffren-type submarines and the Dry Deck Shelter (DDS)”, confides Nicolas.