Middle East Workboats 2009
Middle East Workboats splashed into Abu Dhabi last month
Middle East Workboats was opened to the sound of bagpipes, but was the event in tune with industry requirements, or just hot air? Oil and Gas Middle East reports from the exhibition
Middle East Workboats 2009 was held in Abu Dhabi last month, and the topics of interest varied widely. The economic situation was considered throughout, while more industry specific topics such as piracy were delved into on a much deeper level.
The exhibition was opened with a marching band boasting a number of bagpipers, and as the music died down, the buzz of the exhibition was ramped up. A number of exhibitors commented on the ‘right people’ being present, and there was certainly a community atmosphere at the show as partners, clients and competitors put their companies and their services on display.
The future for workboat companies appears to be mixed. Geir Sjurseth, managing director and global head of offshore for DVB Bank said at the event: “The majority of Middle East companies will see a satisfactory 2009 but 2010 is far more uncertain. The well established players that survive will have a fantastic future.
“The strong companies, and there are many in the Middle East, will preserve capital, cut costs and the smartest guys are planning how to benefit in the longer term. When the dust finally settles, the outlook is favourable but before that we will likely see defaults and consolidation among highly leveraged, recent entrants into the workboats market.”
A seminar and conference programme ran alongside the exhibition. The seminar sessions gave companies the chance to showcase their specific abilities, as well as giving technical advice to the industry, while the conference covered more widespread issues.
Kicking off the conference was Darwish Al Qubaisi, general manager, ESNAAD, who covered the approach to quality in vessels.
“I want to say that trying to save a little bit of capital will cost you a lot in the long run, in terms of maintenance. To end up with a good finished product you must start with a clear
operation requirement,” Al Qubaisi revealed.
Another topic covered in this conference opening, was the issues attracting new personnel to the sector, which was a heavily discussed subject throughout the exhibition.
Al Qubaisi described one of his firm’s solutions. “We have started working with the UAE navy and we are trying to rehire ex-navy people. Of course you have to get them ready through training and I’m very happy to say we have had some good success back from the Navy.”
A presentation was also held showcasing the capabilities of the International Marine Contracting Association (IMCA). Roy Donaldson, chairman, Middle East and India Section, IMCA, revealed: “We promote self regulation within the industry. We are given an indication of good practice from our members, we supply advice to our members and we issue guidelines through clients.”
With a good turnout, interesting conference debate, not to mention an original and interesting way to open the show, it is fair to say Workboats Middle East was more than useful for all involved.
Captain Cheikh Atbi, marine recovery and training specialist, Irshad
What services does Irshad offer?
We are primarily service providers to the maritime industry. Firstly, our role consists of being on-board pilots. So when a ship is coming in from London, from Lisbon or Sydney, or wherever it may be, we are waiting for it. In the shipping industry, you need to work ahead of time so the ship has to be ready on arrival and the terminal has to be ready because time is money. So we make plans before the ships arrive and when she arrives we are ready for her. Our mantra is that we wait for the ship; she doesn’t wait for us. The closer the ship is to the shore, the higher the risk, so our pilot work is crucial. We meet the ship 20 miles out, before boarding her to bring her in. Once she gets close to the dock, tugs complete the journey. At that stage, we swap hats to become loading masters. This is our mission; to wait for a ship, to bring her in and to unload her.
Why did you choose to exhibit at Workboats?
As far as marketing is concerned, right now we already have ten ships loading so we don’t need marketing.
So in actual fact, I don’t need to talk about what I do; I believe the service we offer does the talking for us. However, we do need to have the latest technology, so we are here to see different engines amd also simulators for training. Luckily, there are a lot of engine makers here, so we’re happy to discuss our needs with them.
What challenges are you facing?
In summer here, sea temperatures are 37 degrees, and that water is designed for cooling. However, water that warm won’t cool your engine. So we are here to talk to companies and see how their technology can fit into our environment. Some firms here are offering simulators; if I have a difficult situation, I will not take a chance, so I will use the simulator. And with the wealth of tugs available, which should I use in my operation? You have to look at your needs, starting with the environment, and build out from there.
Wärtsilä Ship Power
Interview: Bram Kruyt, director, Ship Power, Special Vessels and Arthur Boogard, business manager, Ship Power, Special Vessels
What brings you to Abu Dhabi?
BK: We have a special focus at Workboats on the W-Tug, a new Wärtsilä tug design. This is a high performance escort tug of 35m, capable of carrying out ship assist duties at offshore terminals, as well as high-speed escorting, push-pull operations, and coastal towing.
What’s special about the W-Tug?
AB: Due to its compact size and two Wärtsilä steerable thrusters, the tug is highly manoeuvrable. The rounded bow profile with moderate flare is optimised for pushing and reduces the risk of slamming. The towage and escorting duties are served well with a forward 112t towing/anchor winch. A 91t towing winch is sited aft of the superstructure. The tug can be equipped for fire-fighting duties, and can operate 200 nautical miles from the coastline. Also, because everything on board in finely tuned to this particular hull, we envisage fuel savings of around 7%.
What are your hopes for Workboats 2009?
BK: We hope to get a lot of feedback on what customers in the Middle East think of the vessel. It’s still in design stage so it will be useful to hear what people like, and maybe what they don’t like about the vessel.
Diesel and electric hybrid engines are also exciting. The response so far from customers has been enthusiastic, obviously from a green environmental approach. The whole industry is getting greener and whilst the emissions legislation is not yet in force in the Middle East as it is in some European waters, we think from a corporate social responsibility and environmental angle there will be appetite here.
Are oil and gas vessels keeping local demand strong?
AB: The Middle East is relatively favourable to other marine environments right now. The latest results from our global studies show that this region is more dynamic than the rest of the world, also the market for tug boats is more resilient than merchant shipping, which is having a tough time right now.
When do you think the market will be back up to strength?
BK: The second half of next year is probably a cautious timeframe to say orders will start increasing again. Owners are being more cautious with placing orders. For tug and workboats we expect recovery by third quarter next year, however, merchant shipping may take another one to two years to fully bounce back.
Are owners having difficulty financing right now?
BK: For the right vessel and the right owners there is still finance out there. To help our customers we have developed a model so we can become a partner in newbuild vessels, which eases the pressure on owners to find finance from distressed banks.
Noble Denton, Captain Ian Bacon, general manager, Noble Denton
What services does Noble Denton offer?
We are a technical assurance and consultancy company. The merger of GL and Noble Denton in April this year brought together two very strong companies in the marine industry. GL is best known for its clasifications and also for industrial services, while Noble Denton is famous for its marine operations.
How much of your business is in the UAE?
A lot of our business is based in the UAE and the surrounding GCC countries. We currently have a combined staff of around 300 people. We wanted to be here because it’s very important to meet our local clients and show what we do; one of our problems is that we do so many different types of work that clients aren’t aware of the full range of our business.
What are your hopes for the show?
More business! We’ve got strong technical values but equally both companies are commercially minded. It is a competitive market and the only way you can win is through delivery of a good product to your clients. We also want to let people know about our office opening in Sharjah. This is a unit that we designed the detailed engineering for; the office there has approximately 70 people.
DNV, Omar Abu Omar, district manager, DNV
What challenges are you facing?
Everybody is sceptical about the future, and everyone is studying what everybody else is planning for. What we see in this part of the world, and in the workboats and supply business, is there is still a demand. There are still rigs under construction, there is still oil exploration and production, and there is still a need for workboats to carry out offshore work. Today, I believe that this market is stable, perhaps with a little bit of growth.
What are you doing to help customers?
We have tried to increase the confidence of our customers with respect to cost cutting. There are a lot of laid-off ships from owners and we are offering laid-off services as a result. We are also trying to increase training to customers and increase awareness of how they can work in these circumstances with more quality, safety and efficiency.
What are your hopes for the next six months?
I hope the market is going in the right direction; I hope that the confidence flows back to the shipping market in particular; and I hope to see growth.
Svitzer, Jaap-Jan Pietersen, commercial manager, Svitzer.
What services does Svitzer offer?
In a nutshell, Svitzer delivers marine services globally and that ranges from the towage business in salvage to ocean towage. We also have rescue and safety services, which is training and products. So I would say we are quite a diversified company in this particular industry and we can offer safety and support in a number of significant and different ways.
Why did you choose to sponsor Workboats?
What we like about this exhibition is that it covers a high niche, it is focused and it attracts the right people. Our potential customers, our customers and suppliers, in fact everybody we deal with or compete with are here. It is also a great place to be seen.
What are your hopes for the show?
We hope to talk to existing clients and potential new ones. This forum presents a good opportunity to allow people to work together. Our goal here is to network; we don’t expect any major deals to be signed here. For that we normally need a little more time but our market is here, along with a nice crossover to the Asian sector.
CounterFire, Region must buck up training ideas, says Richard Lucas
What services does CounterFire offer?
We offer US-made fire monitors and have the ability to implement whole system design. If a client requests a particular system, we select the correct gearboxes, the pumps, the valves, and the water deluge system for the boat. We also commission the system and, if asked we can also offer training to the ship crews.
Normally, however, the shipyards are in such a panic to get things commissioned and the boat delivered, that part of it very rarely happens.
How much of your business is in the Middle East?
As a percentage for the whole company its probably only 5-7.5% but we are seeing an increase in activity at the moment, certainly with regards to enquiries, so hopefully that situation will change. That is one of the reasons for our presence here at Workboats as well – to remind everyone we are here.
How can fire and safety be improved in the Middle East region?
It’s a tough question because you need a full evaluation of the equipment here. We have supplied quite a few systems to vessels but these tend to be the first line of the systems. To gauge an answer to your question, you probably need to consider some of the bigger systems, which are more substantial and have higher volumes of water. I think there is a need to educate some of the ship owners and the operators of the equipment, which does tend to be forgotten. They tend to buy the equipment but then very little training is done after that. But it’s vital - when you are using the water to keep a structure cool when the fire is in place, it needs training to get the most out of the equipment.
Albwardy Marine Engineering, Mark Pearson, deputy general manager, Albwardy Marine Engineering
What services does Albwardy offer?
As a marine engineering company, we have been around for 30 years. We build ships, we repair ships, we dry-dock vessels and we work offshore as well. Our bases are located in Dubai, Fujairah and Oman and we employ around 900 people. Albwardy is 49% owned by Damman Shipyards group in Holland, a company for which we build ships. We build tugs, workboats and dredgers for Damman but we also repair vessels of any size from VLCC tankers to small boats.
How much of your business is in the Middle East?
The majority of our business is in the Middle East but our customers are not all from this region. We deal with a lot of ship owners from the United Kingdom, from Singapore and also from mainland Europe. Because Fujairah is such a busy bunker port, a lot of our repair work is done at the anchorage in that location.
But we also send people around the world, sailing them to various companies to carry out voyage repairs.
Why did you choose Workboats to exhibit at?
We came last year and we didn’t exhibit, but it was a great event. So this year we decided to link up with Damman on a joint stand. I hope to generate new business here too. It’s a good opportunity to showcase our abilities not just with newbuilds but also with regard to the repair work that we carry out.
What are the toughest challenges in today’s market?
We have had to diversify. Last year we were very busy as everyone was but more with repairs. This year, we have had to change our balance a little bit. Our bottom line hasn’t changed - we are still talking about the same numbers, but the balance of repairs has changed. Now we are doing more newbuild work and more float repairs; we are still doing dry-docking but not as much as before. One of the main areas of our business was dry-docking dredgers but right now there’s a lot less dredging going on. But there is an awful lot of float repairs at the anchorage because there are more ships out there right now.
In terms of bottom line we are doing as well as last year but we have re-addressed our balance. As a company we are fortunate because we are not in one specific area. Because our company is spread over three different markets you can generally weather problems, so if one market is affected, the other two can usually keep you going.
What are your projections for the next six months?
In the next six months, we will be looking to relocate. We are currently based in Al Jadaf, and we’re looking at the new developments at Dubai Maritime City, as well as a number of other options. So that is one of our focus points. The other main issue is keeping the business up; we are very fortunate that we haven’t been affected too much, but you can never take your eye off the ball.