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Interview

Jonathan Smith – General Manager, AMC Management (WA), Australia

Jonathan Smith, general manager of AMC Management, the company contracted to manage the State owned Australian Marine Complex Common User Facility (AMCCUF), details how this collaborative and publicly-owned facility with a multi-industry approach is becoming a leading center of excellence at a global level, while it has already contributed more than USD 2.4 billion of business to Western Australia since its opening in 2003.

The CUF has only been open since 2003 and it already stands out as a world-class center of excellence in oil & gas projects, ship manufacturing, maintenance, and technology development. What has been your main mission since you took over?

As general manager of AMC Management, my main priority is to provide our community with an enhanced capacity to service their clients. For instance, since 2010 we have collaborated with the State Government to bring on-stream a 99 by 53 meter, 12,000ft floating dock which has increased the available land area of the CUF allowing for more companies to benefit from the model. The AMC is a multi-precinct industrial complex. Over the past years, we have witnessed a promising growth of the local industry (either international companies operating in Australia or Australian entities) both at the AMC and within the CUF, which represents a tenth of the 400-hectare total capacity of the AMC.

The CUF’s waterfront and its heavy load-out capability have attracted companies all over Australia to establish their facilities within the AMC, which was the Western Australian Government’s goal when developing the facility. In terms of economic benefits for the Western Australian State, the AMC has already contributed more than USD 2.4 billion of projects since 2003 – projects that would not have occurred without this facility! In this regard, we play a major role in nurturing the growth of the local economy and strengthening the Perth industrial eco-system.

In terms of strategic direction, our philosophy is to keep our capacity as flexible as possible and establish the CUF as a multi-industry facility. Companies that would like to establish a footprint within the AMC don’t have to display a single-sector focus on oil & gas technology for instance. This flexibility is important to us with regards to dealing with peaks and troughs that may affect a single industry as well as to ensure the AMC continues to receive a constant flow of work. More importantly, this multi-industry openness displays a great potential to further foster knowledge transfer between the oil & gas industry embedded here and other sectors that are also rapidly developing within the AMC, such as the defense industry.

The AMC has already contributed more than USD 2.4 billion of projects since 2003 – projects that would not have occurred without this facility!

Beyond the CUF and the opportunity it offers to share facilities among different companies, what kind of interesting interplay is the AMC nurturing between its different clients?

Thanks to our multi-industry focus, our structure bolsters a valuable cross-sector interplay. For instance, some cutting-edge technologies or processes are sometimes developed initially within one specific field before being more widely adopted by other industries. Even if the final use may differ from one industry to another, quality standards are for instance similar between the oil & gas subsea sub-sector and submarine and shipbuilding. Australia is currently undergoing an important construction program of defense submarines and warships, which entails extremely high precision and flawless manufacturing processes. This mix between defense and oil & gas has increased the expertise of local companies and benefited both industries.

The multi-disciplinary focus is a major source of new business opportunities for our clients. Until recently many oil & gas service providers were not looking to other industries but are now growing as a result of the diversification fostered at the AMC.

Finally, the collaborative effort that the AMC is fostering goes far beyond the CUF. Many major oil & gas companies with a marine focus, such as FMC Technology and OneSubsea, have established their facilities within or around the AMC and most of their products will use the waterfront assets at the CUF. The CUF is also supporting and attracting companies that are further afield. As a result, the eco-system we are developing is broader than a “basic” cluster of ship building companies gathered around a waterfront, and our capacities have ultimately led companies across the entire value chain to establish their activities within the area.

The concentration of capability is of benefit to both oil & gas and shipbuilding projects. The availability of skilled labor in competent manufacturers is able to reduce lead times and provide high quality services, de-risk the projects and ultimately deliver on time.

What are the main differentiators of the AMC when competing with other international marine complexes?

First of all, a common-use facility of our size, publicly-owned, and open to multiple industries is something that is truly unique in the world. We believe that in the future, companies will have to adopt a broader business approach by finding solutions and closing strategic partnerships beyond the boundaries of their own industry and our collaborative approach is already supporting this increasing trend.

Secondly, the CUF is unique in its operating model with cost-effective access to high capability infrastructure as companies only pay to use the CUF facilities as and when they need them. This model helps companies to operate in these highly competitive international markets.

Finally, a large number of our clients have participated in building two of the most complex Australian LNG projects, Gorgon and Wheatstone. In this regard, the AMC boasts a critical attractiveness for companies that are developing subsea-related activities creating world-class expertise in this field.

How do you expect the AMC’s footprint to evolve over the next few years?

In a five-year time frame, the overall footprint of the CUF will probably be unchanged but our objective is to welcome a larger number of industries to our facility while we will continue to support our existing client’s growth and diversification strategies.

We foresee subsea activities to gain in importance in the upcoming months. Furthermore, there is extra capacity to welcome new clients to the CUF. A large area of industrial land adjacent to the AMC is still available, which would allow a tenfold increase in land availability. As the Western Australian Government and industry work together they can ensure transport integration with the existing facilities.

From a leadership standpoint, what will be your main points of focus to foster the AMC’s growth?

The CUF has only been open for 13 years, which is extremely recent for a complex of such significance. We have heavy engineering infrastructure that will last for at least fifty years, so we strive to maintain as much flexibility as we can in our development approach. If in twenty years, we need to transform this facility into a supply base, for instance we could do it quite easily and effectively. In effect this has already happened during Gorgon’s construction phase, as most of the quarantine materials required for the project were transported by sea from this facility.

Our objective is to maintain capacity at the CUF and to be able to welcome any new clients, ensuring asset availability to meet program requirements.

Finally, as the industries we service develop and new industries are introduced to the facility we keep abreast of their emerging requirements through local and global interaction. Business opportunities that would generate new economic benefit to the state and may need additional infrastructure are continually considered by the State Government.

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