with Neil Robertson, Project Manager, Semco Maritime
What was the strategy behind Semco entering Aberdeen, and what role does the city play in the overall portfolio of Semco Maritime’s activities?
Semco Maritime is an international company with 1,700 employees located throughout the world. With a base in Denmark, the company has a long track record of operations in the North Sea, going offshore and bringing rigs into Esbjerg harbour. Therefore, we have a small attraction zone for the North Sea as a whole. As most of the operations in the North Sea are run from Aberdeen, we saw it as the place to be: we had to make a presence and get ourselves known. Our existing Aberdeen-based client list is relatively small compared to the potential, so to broaden it, Semco needed to develop a presence in Aberdeen.
Semco Maritime is already present throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. What took so long for the company to come to Aberdeen?
Semco is relatively young in the oil and gas field, starting activities 25 years ago mainly in Denmark, with the National Danish Energy Company DONG and NASCO Oil and Gas as main clients. Semco then started working for drilling contractors that started appearing in Denmark, such as Asco, Noble, and TransOcean, and today, the goal is to work for companies that own and operate platforms in the North Sea. Of course, Semco is already doing just that from Denmark, but we need to expand.
You mention the potential for Semco in the North Sea, and that you’ve not yet realized it. What will be the main focus areas the company intends to target in its ambitions to grow this potential?
Semco’s ambition is to become the preferred choice for drilling contractors for any modification, repair, maintenance, or upgrade to rigs. The company also wants to branch out into fabric maintenance of platforms – obviously not at this stage, but hopefully soon. Eventually, Semco wants to be able to reach the point of being able to carry out any sort of construction work at all.
Semco has been present in Aberdeen since June 2008. What kinds of activities have already taken place in this short time span?
In October, Semco has already signed contracts with TransOcean and Noble, and by next summer intends to construct a bigger base in Aberdeen with fabrication facilities and an office for approximately 50 employees, which will allow offering fabric maintenance by the end of next year.
In a mature basin with older equipment like the UKCS, many millions of dollars are invested annually in infrastructure and drilling. Which are the focus areas for Semco Maritime in the North Sea?
Semco wants to do design construction, and is in this sense a competitor to the likes of PSN and Wood Group, but at a smaller scale for the moment. The aim is to grow at a sensible and stable rate to compete with these companies. Semco doesn’t want to be the biggest overnight, but rather do things right the first time. For the moment, the company’s main concentration is on accommodation updates on mobile units. Current HSE legislation is being enacted such that the old four-man cabins must be removed and replaced with two-man, so Semco will concentrate on that for the moment. Following this is hard to tell exactly, but many mobile rigs are reaching the 30-year age bracket, which necessitates a lot of work, and is probably another field in which Semco will concentrate.
You mention Wood Group and PSN, two icons of the UKCS which might be more well-known and attractive for Aberdeen based companies. Why should your potential clients come to Semco, a larger foreign company with not as much history and presence in Aberdeen, and what will make you stand out in their minds?
Semco’s clients do not see it as a big company; we are totally approachable. On a personal level, there are teams formed on a project-by-project basis, which work together in harmony and with no visible hierarchy. Semco works together in partnership in a unique way, in contrast to many other companies. Lastly, while every company will claim to be a one-stop shop, Semco carries out every project demanded, from 2m of piping to a 1,700 ton module.
Moving from accommodation upgrades into more capital-intensive work, how do you anticipate this trajectory panning out?
In Esbjerg, Denmark, there are approximately 350 engineers and Semco will continue to use these engineering resources. Primarily, we have the experience and facilities for fabrication and construction which make it easier to talk to engineers on site, and result in very quick survey and inspection. Also, going back to what sets Semco apart from the rest, there is a key site facility in the harbour, with capacity to put a 1,700 ton single lift module on a boat and away, and there are not many places in Scotland where something that large can be built. Hopefully, this fact will play in our favour in attracting companies in Scotland.
In terms of attracting the people required, there are many other companies vying for Semco’s potential worker pool; what is the strategy on the HR front?
You are right, getting people in the UK is a problem and engineering rates are astronomical. In this regard, Semco has two options: either develop a company ourselves, or look at procuring a local company. We are assessing both ideas at the moment. When you buy a company, you inherit a reputation. Therefore, Semco must play close attention to which company is chosen. Otherwise, Semco has its own manpower division in Denmark, which could be utilized.
You mentioned 1,700 employees located throughout the world; what role do you envision the Aberdeen offices and facilities playing in the broader Semco Maritime picture?
The Aberdeen office will play a very big role for the company in the future as it will not only operate in the North Sea. For example, many drilling contractors operate in West Africa from Aberdeen due to on-site volatility, and hopefully, Semco will enter that market as well. In fact, the company has already been approached by three drilling contractors to open departments in the region, but we are not prepared to do that for the moment, for much the same reason as others. Therefore, by entering Aberdeen, Semco will not only be capturing the Aberdeen market, but developing it as a rig center for the global market.
Can you elaborate on Semco’s Log On 2010 strategy, and the overall “in the ascendant” ethos?
It’s a Semco ethic: we’ve got to grow, and the company’s private owners will invest significantly to ensure this happens.
Translating this ethic to Aberdeen, how would you like to see the progression of this office in five or 10 years?
In the hope that the oil price stays relatively high, and drilling contractors will keep having work on the rigs, the ambition is that Semco, in three years’ time, will have 200 to 300 people in Aberdeen, and a fabrication facility. On the longer term, in 5 to 10 years, we want to be comparable with Esbjerg facilities, and therefore employ 900 people.
What is your final message to OGFJ readers about one of the most ambitious companies in Aberdeen today?
I hope we are the most ambitious, but also the most proficient. We do a good job, and like the challenge of taking on what people think is too big for us on our way to becoming the market leader. Semco is the one stop shop for economical, successful, and excellent products.