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Interview

Davide Andreani – General Manager, Mammoet Southern Africa

Davide Andreani, general manager of Mammoet Southern Africa, highlights the main challenges they face in the region and the importance of public and private collaboration in infrastructure development. Furthermore, he discusses the relevance of gas for the region’s energy mix and how Mammoet brings innovation to the market.

What is the strategic importance of Southern Africa for the company, and how does South Africa fit into this approach?

“The appointment of Cyril Ramaphosa as South Africa’s president is bringing a breath of fresh air to the business environment. Investments will hopefully increase, with a proper partnership between the private and public sector.”

South Africa is the hub for the development of our African footprint as it is the most industrialized country on the continent, with a large abundance of expertise and opportunities. Nevertheless, we understand there is still a lot of work to do, and as a multinational company and market leader in our field, it is imperative that we support the entire market as well as all our clients with our international expertise and knowledge.

Our scope of operations here revolves around oil and gas, mining and power. Within the oil and gas field, we are focused heavily on refineries, with Sasol being one of our major clients, not just in South Africa, but equally the US. Within mining, we bring our global knowledge from working in major markets such as Canada and Australia, while in the meantime developing our own local innovations for Africa. In the power sector, we have participated in the construction of two largest power plant projects in Southern Africa, and they are even some of the largest in the world.

 Africa is a continent with 54 countries, and within this network of nations there are many differences and synergies. What are the main challenges you face within the Southern African region?

Fortunately, locally there are a good number of suppliers and experts that we can utilize for our expansion across Africa. The agreement’s made across the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) zone is really important to facilitate regional development and make it easier for us to conduct business. Nevertheless, in Africa most countries do have their own rules, and despite nations adapting their processes for growth, many times development is faster than they can keep up.

From a South African perspective, it is large country with many different provinces. Each of these provinces have their own set of rules and policies; therefore, it is something to consider when conducting work in each respective area, or when undertaking cross-border work.

The regional approach is slightly different. For a practical example; in South Africa for abnormal loads you are allowed 12 tons per cable line, and this can be adjusted with various combinations of equipment. Though as you move outside SADC, to countries like Kenya and Tanzania, this allowance is only eight ton, with a maximum of 56 tones per vehicle. To exceed this limit, you must pay fines as a road damage levy. This automatically puts many proposed renewable energy programs out of reach, as wind turbines are extremely heavy. Therefore, to navigate these issues, we keep many projects on the coastline, and this shows we must adapt our approach depending on the countries and projects in question.

From a synergies aspect, the movement of staff in the SADC region, and mostly Africa, is quite easy if they are native. The president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is bringing the African union to the forefront, and with this hopefully we will see continental synergies improving in the future.

The upstream potential of the region is a topic talked about quite a lot. What is your opinion on this, and how well prepared is Mammoet for a possible increase in activity?

We do not believe that the upstream sector will blossom in the near future. However, we have seen some developments, for example in Mozambique the construction of large pipelines to utilize the large natural gas reserves. In any case, Mammoet will be ready to take on any upstream demands if they become available.

The infrastructure ecosystem influences a lot of what Mammoet does. How can there be a great collaboration between the private and public sector within the region, to facilitate greater infrastructure investments?

 The appointment of Cyril Ramaphosa as South Africa’s president is bringing a breath of fresh air to the business environment. Investments will hopefully increase, with a proper partnership between the private and public sector.

For example, only last week we saw the signing of the final round of the renewable energy program, and with this it will bring a whole list of opportunities. Additionally, we witness the movement towards gas to power to shift the energy mix, with potential to integrate more LNG and LPG into the nation.

Overall, we need investments from abroad, and the new government is looking to integrate this approach and be leaders across Africa. Maintenance has long been the Achilles heel of Africa; therefore, when Mammoet conducts a project abroad, we teach the locals about how to operate and maintain the sites, and this facilitates knowledge and skills transfer across Africa.

What relevance do you see gas playing in the region?

Looking at the last couple of years, there has been a vast acknowledgment that South Africa needs to diversify from coal. The country is ready for this, and our history is connected to gas, with companies like Sasol being leaders in many areas of this spectrum. Furthermore, terminals are being put in place, such as the large LPG bullets in Saldanha bay, with Mammoet part of their transportation. Everyone is ready for gas, and we are waiting for it to kick-start and play a larger role.

Mammoet is seen as the market leader. Who do you see as your major competition?

There is a mix of international and local players, though the heavy lift and heavy transport market is a niche, and many competitors are more EPC driven. Even though at times we participate in smaller operations, our main focus is large projects where we can bring our technology and expertise and follow our slogan: the biggest thing we move is time. The company, and our experts, have learnt so much from all over the world, and we have the information to support all companies.

This is especially true in the oil and gas and power sectors. For example, when refineries require scheduled shutdown maintenance every hour is crucial, yet we provide solutions for our clients that allow them to have operations up and running quicker than any of our competitors.

What is the innovation you are bringing to the marketplace?

Most of the time we rely on our supplier to produce our cranes, but currently we are developing, designing and constructing internally our own crane called Focus. As the market leaders we want to be driving forward the market trends and new technologies, so we can supply them to our clients. Another example; we have a crane that is versatile and can be built in a confined space. This is vital in a tight refinery setting, and this crane cans still lift five-thousand tones.

What are your objectives in the future and how will you be successful in reaching them?

 Our goal is to support the company across the continent, especially as we place a larger footprint in Western and Eastern Africa. With this we will achieve as much success as possible and maintain our status as the number-one company within our market.

Furthermore, it is important that we have competition to drive forward the industry. We do not have all the resources required for operations; therefore, we work with many of our competitors, and because of our international experience and knowledge, we are able to lead projects and take on the financial risk, while outsourcing services to local competition.

All in all, Mammoet is not a service company, but a solutions provider. We manage projects and find the best possible way to operate, while living up to our slogan: the largest thing we move is time.

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