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Interview

Mike Kochalski, Country Manager, Viking SeaTech, Singapore

10.01.2014 / Energyboardroom

Mike Kolchalski, Country Manager of Viking SeaTech, discusses the strategic value of having a presence in Singapore, and why it is a perfect platform to grow a regional business.

Looking into your background, you’ve accumulated over 30 years of international operations and management experience in the O&G service industry. What is your role at the company and what have been your major achievements thus far?

I joined Viking SeaTech late in 2012 with the aim of developing a solid base for which to expand our business in the Southeast Asian region. This would complement our already strong position in Western Australia, which represents our Asia Pacific corporate office in Perth, along with our offshore operations base in Karratha.

Our core business centered around the sale and rental of mooring equipment, but we had bigger ambitions to grow and offer alternative solutions.  In 2013, the company introduced two new service lines including VS People, a manpower offering, as well as a survey and positioning business, Viking SeaTech Survey. Last year we also established a new office in Jakarta, Indonesia.

As a company, we wanted to be recognized as a technically competent business concentrating on the technical aspects of what we do. After all, surveying and positioning is closely linked to the mooring business, as is the supply of specialist manpower to our customers operating drill rigs, among others. In the future, we will be looking at introducing other business lines such as detailed engineering services including riser analysis, for instance.

Although Viking SeaTech’s roots trace back to 1986, it was only in 2008 that the company branched out into the S.E.A. region with their Singaporean offices. What motivated the decision to establish a presence only then?

Singapore has much to offer. We moved into Singapore, as it was the next logical step in our strategic business plan. This has been a fruitful and worthwhile experience, as we have secured sizeable work and have broadened our client portfolio significantly. Viking SeaTech’s core services are now supported by two new additional business lines, manpower arm VS People and specialist positioning business Viking SeaTech Survey. As Singapore grows further and evolves, it is important to present an alternative offer. We have found that Singapore is a vibrant and burgeoning region to do business.

Given your focus on developing Viking SeaTech’s regional business, what are your biggest challenges?

Staying ahead of the curve is always challenging. In Singapore, the market is busy with fellow innovators that continually present new technology, processes and products. Standing still is simply not an option. This is why we are offering new services to our customers, and our clients inform us that the new business lines have been a welcome additions to our suite of services.

Singapore is a bold and evolving marketplace and at Viking SeaTech, we are working tirelessly to ensure our services are first choice.

As the company establishes itself in the region, how would you rate the strategic importance of your Singaporean operations to Viking SeaTech?

Singapore is an indispensable hub for any business that wants to grow in the Southeast Asian region. Most of our clients’ corporate offices and decision-making powers are concentrated here, which means we are closer to them, which is always beneficial. We are working with clients in Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and India and Singapore serves as a link to these countries as well as to the rest of the world. To illustrate, we have just completed a project in India and have relocated the equipment back to Singapore. In contrast to other locations, everything in Singapore works like clockwork, with great efficiency. Singapore is a prime location for us since we carry out a lot of marine and mooring related equipment trading. In addition to this, we have a yard here where we store a lot of our equipment as rental stock. This allows us to mobilize our equipment quickly and with little effort to any location in the region, or beyond.

How can Viking SeaTech help its clients increase their efficiency or tackle specific challenges?

Where we can create the greatest cost efficiencies for the operators is through our pre-laid anchor systems. We have so far established a solid track record in that field and have a team of very capable engineers that design the overall systems. Simply put, it’s the way forward to reducing rig time and costs.

People tend to relate innovation with high costs. What is your assessment of your clients’ attitude towards innovative solutions?

Throughout my experience in this industry in various parts of the world, I have found businesses tend to avoid paying more for something than they paid for it in the previous year. With that in mind, it can be disappointing to see some promising R&D projects come crashing down because the client does not want to pay for the new technology.

To overcome this, we always present our clients with a case of how our technologies in mooring equipment or our state-of-the-art survey and positioning systems can help them realize time and cost savings. When we take that approach, it is hard for the clients to turn down any cost saving solutions.

With vast deepwater oil and gas discoveries being made in the Asia region, how well positioned is Viking SeaTech to support the activities of offshore companies here?

We are very well positioned to facilitate this untapped potential. At the moment, we are present on three contracts in India and we are also looking towards Myanmar, where we have identified a number of opportunities. Moreover, our Australian counterparts are working together with the likes of Woodside Petroleum and Chevron Australia who are looking to tap into deepwater resources. With this in mind, I firmly believe that we are at the forefront of the business.

Many have pointed out that the safety factor is less focused in Asia as compared to in the North Sea, for instance. How do you perceive the safety factor in your area of responsibility?

Safety is Viking SeaTech’s number one priority. In fact, Viking SeaTech has an impressive HSEQ setup that we adhere to very diligently. The number of safety incidents has decreased across the industry due to an improved investment in safety processes, equipment and standards.

Now we are seeing many regional operating companies strengthen their HSE records. Experienced western health and safety leaders are being recruited in our region to further bolster the knowledge and reputation of the Asian oil and gas HSE industry.

Considering your focus on business development, what goals do you intend to achieve in your role as country manager for Viking SeaTech in Singapore?

In short, I expect to grow the Singaporean affiliate three or four times its current size. The opportunities are certainly there with strong support from across the company. In addition to this, we have a very good team of people here and we intend to grow further. I also aim to add more engineering support staff as well as a number of survey and positioning personnel. Our manpower business VS People is at the beginning of its journey and I look forward to aiding its development in the region. I believe these ambitions are all very possible and the business environment in Singapore is perfectly accommodating towards achieving that.

To read more interviews and articles on Singapore, and to download the latest free report on the country, click here.

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