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Interview

Sebastien Charrier, Country Manager, Swire Pacific Offshore (SPO), Brazil

17.02.2014 / Energyboardroom

“Swire Pacific Offshore recognizes the need to manage costs carefully but has built its business and reputation around safety, quality, reliability and consistently delivering high levels of operating performance—all factors that are also very important to operators in every oil and gas market,” Mr. Sebastien Charrier, SPO’s Country Manager, says of the company. 


Since you arrived, what has been your principle goal for Swire Pacific Offshore?

One of my first tasks when I arrived in Brazil was to set up an office here for SPO. The first steps included sourcing for a suitable office space and building a small team to establish and develop our business here.

Swire Pacific Offshore has four new ships under construction here in Brazil. What are your thoughts on constructing vessels here in Brazil; what benefits and costs does building here in Brazil represent for your company?

SPO has always taken a long-term approach with its business and thus the main reason for the decision to enter into a new building contract for vessels in Brazil was to help demonstrate Swire Pacific Offshore’s commitment to establish a long-term presence in the country. We hope that the direct investment in Brazilian built vessels, alongside a corresponding commitment to develop a strong, well trained highly competent local team at sea and ashore will be recognized by local operators as important, incremental steps in creating a sustainable, high quality vessel operation in Brazil. Brazil has regulations to facilitate local production and local content. The principal benefit that Brazilian shipyards can offer SPO is that they have the relevant industry knowledge and technical expertise which are highly useful for us. Their experience in building vessels for local customers such as Petrobras means that they are highly familiar with local requirements and expectations and thus should be able to meet our business needs.

To ensure that a high standard of quality is maintained for these vessels (aligned with that of our global fleet), SPO has a strong technical team onsite at the shipyards to monitor the progress and oversee these shipbuilding projects. At present, we have a project team comprising a manager and two assistants who are based at the shipyard. There will be a third assistant joining the team soon.  The project team are experienced, well trained and have specialist skills and knowledge relating to new vessel construction.

What are the prospects for Swire Pacific Offshore’s tendering business here in Brazil?

For SPO, our competitive edge lies in the high technical and efficient specifications of modern fleet, extensive offshore experience around the world, and the strong capabilities that we have developed in terms of high standards of safety and operational performance in undertaking demanding offshore marine work in challenging conditions.

In Brazil, how are you demonstrating the fact that you offer a premium product before you have any vessels operating here?

Over the years, SPO has built a strong reputation as a trusted and leading service provider to the offshore oil and gas industry with over 40 years of experience. SPO offers a versatile and reliable fleet of vessels to its customers and is committed to the highest standards of safety and operational performance. Through meetings with potential customers, we are able to explain our operating philosophy, values, specifications and management of our vessels, highlighting key factors that differentiate SPO from our competitors. It is a question of being able to demonstrate how this differentiation translates into sustainable value for the customers in their daily operations such that they appreciate the significant benefits of choosing SPO as their service provider.

How does SPO’s technically advanced fleet square with the frequent efforts to push down costs in the Brazilian market, and how high is the demand for premium services?

For SPO, we recognize that cost is a key consideration in the Brazilian market, like many others, in the client’s choice of service suppliers. SPO recognizes the need to manage costs carefully but has built its business and reputation around safety, quality, reliability and consistently delivering high levels of operating performance—all factors that are also very important to operators in every oil and gas market. We will focus on offering value to our customers across a range of offshore services and are confident that we will be able to establish a successful business here in Brazil.

The PSV market can be relatively cyclical. For example, 2007 was considered to be a boom year, whereas 2009 and 2010 saw demand fall. Do you think your premium service will allow you to pass by future slumps in demand in the PSV market?

We are confident that offering high quality services and building a reputation in Brazil for consistent, safe, high quality operational performance will help ensure that there is an ongoing opportunity to keep our vessels employed even through periods where demand is reduced.  SPO’s long-term business strategy is to seek to build strong business partnerships which help ensure continuity and stability in our business.

Ensuring high standards in every aspect of our business is a key focus for SPO, be it in terms of the quality of the design, construction and ongoing maintenance of our vessels, the operational delivery of the marine services we provide or the ongoing development of our officers, crew and catering teams.

Take, for instance, in my previous appointment with SPO when I was based in West Africa where SPO has four offices, in Cameroon, Ghana, Angola and Equatorial Guinea. SPO was the only company that has four offices in the region to ensure close proximity with our operational vessels and be readily accessible to our customers to ensure their business needs are clearly understood and met so that any operational requirements and or disruptions can be handled more effectively.

How is your relationship with Petrobras; how do you find working with them?

We have recently signed our first long-term contract with Petrobras: the ship is a D-Class vessel, a large, modern anchor handler that will undertake torpedo anchor launching work for Petrobras. The vessel is scheduled to arrive in the second quarter of 2014. We are very focused on preparations to ensure a successful entry into service, particularly that upom arrival in the country, the vessel will fulfill all requisites and requirements by Petrobras and meet the Brazilian port state standards.

With the changing dynamics in regards to the oil and gas industries demands as we move from exploration to production, what is the current trend within the PSV/OSV market?

The balance of our activities is changing in the Brazilian markets. Chartering activities have fallen in 2013 as compared to the previous year in 2012. This is likely linked to the gap between varying auctions established by the ANP. In 2013, we had two rounds: one in May and one in November for the Libra project. These two rounds will bring more activities to Brazil, but it will take some time before the demand reflects the increased activities. There will be some time lag before these changes take effect. An upturn is expected in 2015, which will be good for SPO.

Recently, in Singapore the company received an award for Sustainable Development. How do you take this ethic forward in Brazil, and how does it add to the premium nature of your brand?

We were obviously very pleased and humbled to receive The Achievement of Excellence in the Sustainable Business Award (Large Enterprise). Managing our business sustainably, ensuring that we act responsibly at all times and seek to bring lasting benefits to the communities where we operate is very important to everyone in our organization and something that we will certainly be keen to extend with our operations in Brazil. We believe that our approach to sustainability is something that brings value to our clients too and an area where there should be good opportunities to work closely together.

How do you find access to staff in the local market here?

For SPO, we believe in training and developing local talent in the countries that we operate in order to ensure long-term sustainability of our business. The availability of staff in the local market of course differs according to the various job functions required to operate our business. In some areas, it is relatively easy to find local people for our employment opportunities. However, for some specialist roles where demand is very high and given the rapid development of the industry, supply has not been able to keep pace and as such, it is much more difficult to find skilled and experienced people in the Brazilian workforce. Accordingly, in a tight labor market, it is important for SPO as a business to establish itself as an employer of choice and to ensure that we are able to offer our team the opportunity for them to fulfill their potential by providing ongoing training and development during their careers with the Company.

Where do you see SPO in five years’ time? 

In the last five years, SPO has expanded the size of its traditional offshore supply vessel fleet and broadened the range of marine services available to our global customer base. Today, SPO operates 84 vessels and the fleet is set to increase to 100 by 2015. The diverse fleet of varying capabilities will allow SPO to operate across segments of the offshore industry and meet varying market demands. SPO will continue to pursue contracts issued by Petrobras as well as other international oil companies operating in Brazil, in particular, in the higher end PSV/OSV market, such as advanced anchor handling services. Moving forward, we certainly hope that we will be able to grow and develop our operations and help support the ongoing success of the offshore oil and gas industry in Brazil.

 

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

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