Offshore Asia – Rendy Ariffin, Managing Director – Singapore
Rendy Ariffin, Managing Director of Bourbon Offshore Asia, discusses the Group’s service-driven model for both marine & subsea operations since its implantation in Asia Pacific. Bourbon Offshore aims to offers more than just a vessel and is expanding within the APAC region from a strong Singapore hub, thanks to such innovative offerings as a state of the art AHTS training center in Singapore.
Prior to your entering your current role, overseeing Bourbon’s operations in Asia, the company had been adding to its fleet here and had established itself in key markets across the region. What have been the key milestones since your arrival?
Looking at Bourbon at a whole, the company has always been in a state of growth since its inception. I arrived in 2010, and shortly afterward Bourbon launched its 2015 leadership strategy. I am privileged to be part of that push toward expansion. It really raised the bar for the company here as prior to this, Bourbon’s focus for expansion had lain elsewhere. This was a chance for us to bring more assets to Asia and promote the company here.
The number of vessels here has increased substantially, along with the headcount of staff to crew and support them. When I arrived, there were 300 staff working for the business in this region. Now there are approximately 1,500 staff on the payroll here.
Thanks to prudent and shrewd management, this has also corresponded to an increase in turnover and revenue as well. In 2012 and 2013, growth was between 32 to 33 percent year on year. This has been the highest growth for any region Bourbon operates in for any two consecutive years.
With regard to this growth, Bourbon offers both marine and subsea services. How have the growth rates in these two sectors compared for you and where geographically are you seeing your principle activity?
Key markets in Asia have always included Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia. The company is strategically focused on the major markets, especially on the marine side. There, we have sought to gain ground for our AHTS vessels in the rig moving business as a keystone activity of our expansion in the region. We have also seen continuing success in our niche market- the provision of crewboats.
Utilization rates for Bourbon are high, particularly compared to many of our competitors- and in this has been the case for the last few years. This has been the foundation of our expansion in Asia. There is no point steaming in vessels if there is no work available for them. The company has been very effective in efficiently gaining work for these vessels on profitable contracts.
In 2010, the business was operating 19 vessels in the region. This figure now stands at 50.
Subsea activity is still something of a new segment of our business which is still developing. We have had a number of assets operating successfully in the region though we need to further consolidate our strategies and emphasis within the subsea market. The company will be keenly watching developing trends in this market to see where opportunities emerge.
In 2006-2008, the industry was in rude health. However, this was stunted by the emergence of speculators entering the market. What sets your company aside from the competition and enables you to retain such a high utilization rate?
The company benefits from having established a global brand. With the high standards of service provided to clients in other regions, as well as across Asia, the business is well known as a reliable company that can deliver. Whenever there has been the opportunity for work, the business has proven itself.
As a manager, I hope to ensure my team embraces the idea that the business is not just providing a boat, but a service. It is about acting as a partner to E&P operators, giving them enhanced value including providing them with information, data and intelligence that they can use to enhance their own operations.
In 2013, the Transforming for beyond plan was created which set out a significant investment in alleviating the burden of Bourbon’s debt via a lease-back strategy to prepare tomorrow’s growth. In terms of standing out for clients, what physical attributes are you seeking to imbue your vessels with?
In terms of asset acquisition Bourbon operates a group strategy, not a regional one. The company has been building its vessels in series and has a good partnership with the shipyards we work with, enabling the production of quality vessels in a timely manner at a good price.
Being able to produce vessels in series offers advantages in terms of standardized maintenance, opportunities of scale and ensures we can offer consistent services across the region.
How does the company leverage benefits from the international scope of your operations?
For one thing, being a global company gives us access to resources a local company would not have. Should an operator engage in a high risk operation here, we will have staff who will have likely undertaken the procedure on a previous occasion. Some of our global clients may have been directly involved in a historical operation with Bourbon and so are well-versed in our capabilities.
This helps us get through the front door. That being said, the company is conscious of the fact it must deliver real value to the client to continue to operate in any relationship.
It is important to note that Bourbon internationally benefits from our presence in Asia too. Leveraging local content across our Asian operations is important to our operations here. In this region, over 85 percent of our workforce is locally sourced. These human resources then contribute towards our performance, both here and across the wider company.
In Singapore, the business has an AHTS training facility. This was the second such facility opened in Asia- what is the role of the training facility to Bourbon, and how do you find access to skilled labor here in Singapore?
The company is fortunate to have its secure position in Singapore. In this region, the Philippines and Indonesia are key providers of maritime skills to the global industry, and these are both close to Singapore. This training center is indeed the second training center in the region- but it is also the second such facility that Bourbon operates. The business already has another training base in Marseille, France.
These centers enhance the competencies of staff within the Bourbon group globally. As I stated, Bourbon offers more than a boat- it offers a service. For this reason, our staff must be as well trained and as ready as possible, for any task the client requires. The Bourbon group looked to the aviation industry’s training strategies and this is why we utilise the simulators to ensure our staff are prepared in a safe environment.
This is all about risk management. Our training scheme means our vessels are staffed by individuals who will have run through situations on the simulator before acting them out in real life- their familiarity means they are prepared for challenging circumstances.
What does Singapore itself mean to Bourbon Offshore?
This city is important as a regional office. The area of operations controlled from here runs from as far north as Sakhalin island in Russia to New Zealand in the south, and as far west as India. There are many countries in this area, and so it is important to be based in a country with good connectivity in terms of flights, solid infrastructure and communication channels. Singapore has these, and is also a leading point for ship repair.
The area of operations organised by Bourbon from Singapore is, as you mention, vast. Across this spread, do you have any operational examples which you feel Bourbon’s abilities are fully represented?
Indonesia is a good example. Were a vessel to steam from the eastern to western end of the country at ten knots, this distance would require 11 days to cover. The operators we work for too, are very diverse and operating in many different contexts.
In Indonesia, we almost have the full scope of services that Bourbon can provide. In east Kalimantan, we are providing crewboat services. In the Mahakam Delta, in the shallow water region, we have 15 crew boats stationed. At the other end of the spectrum, we are providing drilling support for deep water operations with one of the supermajors stationed there.
Health and safety is a key priority for any company. What is your strategy to promote operations without mishap?
I am proud to work for Bourbon. In the company the management very much prioritises a safe working environment as central to operations. The business has implemented an operational safety management system which provides a good foundation for us to work from.
The business has a ‘safety takes me home’ campaign running at the moment. This reminds our workers that the reason to keep safety at the forefront of their minds is not to satisfy some distant KPI; but to return them to their families at the end of every stint at sea.
We seek to utilise games and ‘situational training’ to ingrain safety behaviour- so that it is adopted and implemented without stress or fuss, that it is simply natural for our workers to complete tasks in a way that poses no danger to themselves or their colleagues.
Personally, I seek to engage with staff working on operation- I visit vessels and working stations whilst activity is ongoing to demonstrate to Bourbon’s employees that I am aware of their working conditions and to emphasise that I support a safety first policy.
What qualities do you consider an offshore company needs to hold onto to achieve success?
I think any business must remain focused on areas where it wishes to generate operational excellence. Without focus, mistakes can be made and risks are increased. Whilst the industry relies on, and embraces technology, experience is still required in order to make sure operations go smoothly.
Personally, I think that management needs to conduct its activities espousing honesty and integrity to ensure success for the whole organisaton. Here at Bourbon, we do this.