MAATS Tech is following a general trend in the oil & gas sector at present in adapting its model from traditional sector offerings to a heightened emphasis on renewable opportunities
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Josh Hyland
Over the past year-18 months, MAATS Tech has encountered challenges on numerous fronts, but has utilised these tough times to galvanise the business via fresh ideologies, new projects, and a more diversified outlook on the opportunities that oil & gas offers.
Back in 2016, the Company foresaw such challenges amid a global sector slowdown, with it then looking to leverage expertise across marine engineering in order to negotiate the overall downturn. Working closely with customers and vendors to strengthen its overall service remit, a period of consolidation was set to ensue across many of its divisions; including ship design and build, installation and commissioning of bespoke equipment for handling, storage, offloading of flexible pipe systems, and a host of new value-add services.
The Company’s Founder and Managing Director, John Holt noted back then: “All companies operating within the oil & gas market are closely monitoring developments in order to adjust their business strategy accordingly; and MAATS Tech is no different. With the US currently not importing and Iran about to begin exporting its oil, no one has the answer yet to the surplus challenge, and a vote of confidence may be a little while coming.
“It is with this in mind that we have shifted our focus and gained a foothold in the cable-laying business for energy companies, while also remaining open to exploring alternative engineering-based markets where our fully-qualified teams can transfer their knowledge of flexible pipe handling over to cable handling.”
The move back then was compounded by an internal restructuring of the organisation and the adoption of new revenue streams primarily revolving around renewable opportunities.
Now, more than a year on, the sector diversification has been successful, but the Company’s new projects have not been without their hitches.
“As a company we would say that our objectives since September, 2016 of consolidation and a partial move from the ‘on-hold’ oil & gas market to renewables has been reasonably successful,” Holt assesses. “The two main projects in hand since the last issue, one at Kleven Verft where MAATS outfitted the cable lay system on the Norwegian ship of the year, the NKT Victoria (which is owned by the Danish Company, NKT) and one at La Naval in Spain have both matured but whereas the design build install and commission side supplied by MAATS has run well, weaknesses in the Shipyards’ finances have led to considerable heartache and pain to the project groups.”
One of the main successes in the past year saw MAATS Tech obtain a position on the bid list for the supply and installation of an HV cable lay spread for French cable lay and manufacturing company, NEXANS.
“The award of the NEXANS and subsequent Columbo projects will underpin MAATS’ activities through to the end of 2017 and into the latter months of 2018,” Holt affirms. “Any addition to these will without doubt be welcome and assist with the financing of research & development projects.
“The emphasis has been on identifying and approaching potential opportunities in the renewables industry, mainly focusing on the HV wind farm and power export business. Our role as the preferred contractor for the NEXANS project became possible to MAATS in the first quarter of 2017, with the new building contract scheduled to start in the last quarter of 2017. The additional project with the Colombo shipyard in Sri Lanka is also planned to commence in the last quarter of 2017, again in the HV cable lay business.”
Facilitating the portfolio expansion, new processes have had to be embraced and instilled, including the development of more commercially-aware input into proposals and business development issues; emphasising aspects of teamwork and knowledge sharing.
“[Similarly], design philosophies are always under review and quite animated debates often occur among the engineers especially when you have the HV cable lay business raising all sorts of new problems of handling, laying and manufacturing the cable,” Holt adds. “This industry should not be confused with the communications and early a/c cable lay operations; this is a whole new business and MAATS is working closely with the operators and the classification societies on the design philosophies for the handling, storage and lay systems.”
The need to educate staff more prominently on technical and commercial matters is a given, but simultaneously, there has also been a renewed focus to educate personnel on MAATS Tech’s overall values of integrity and technical cooperation which need to remain the same even if the services are evolving.
“Employee levels remain about the same aside from changes in senior positions anticipated last year,” Holt alludes to in regards to the Company’s continuous improvement progression. “Our geographical footprint has not changed significantly due mainly to the contraction in the oil & gas industry, but primary contact with possible representation and project sharing has been made in Singapore and Dubai, while the working relationship with NATEC in Brazil continues to work well.
“Finally, in regards to industry ranking, it is difficult to assess. MAATS definitely remains a leader in under deck carousels for the oil & gas and HV cable businesses, while the award (to be confirmed) of the prestigious NEXANS project shows that MAATS is high in the rankings of companies that can deliver in this industry.”
Profits and activities
MAATS has also played a significant role in the aforementioned Norwegian ship of the year Kleven project courtesy of all cable handling machinery on deck and under deck which were designed and supplied by MAATS Tech.
The completion of the Kleven Project will contribute to a stronger than expected revenue result for 2017 in what has been a challenging few months. The analysis work and support services will help to counteract the aforementioned delays and difficulties at its La Naval project in keeping the Company strongly profitable.
“The award of the NEXANS and Columbo projects will help to underpin MAATS’ profits and activities through to the end of 2017 and into the latter months of 2018,” Holt says. “In addition and to further diversify our offering, MAATS FE and Analysis division continues to monitor and upgrade the Company’s computer systems and expand the software capability in order to meet the elements of difference required by the renewable energy industry compared with oil & gas.
“New elements such as vessel global strength for grounding for beach approach, and mooring system analysis for the same activity are now part of the services MAATS can offer to operators as well.”
The focus has been on procedures rather than systems in order to analyse and react to inter-department activities, difficulties and successes in order to continuously monitor performance. And by identifying the aspects that work well and the aspects that need improvement, the Company can better prepare for future industry fluctuations.
Ride quietly into the sunset
Not only is MAATS Tech evolving as a business by diversifying its remit, but it is also addressing one of the most rapidly evolving trends in the export of electric power through HV cables.
“This is a new industry that we believe is already expanding worldwide,” Holt states. “The equipment and vessel design is so far being based on the old methods, so new methods will definitely follow and we need to stay in step with these as MAATS is in on the ground floor.”
In preparation for the overhaul, numerous internal changes have been implemented including Lisa Edwards taking over as Managing Director, and Will Gibby joining the Company as Technical Director.
Gavin Rippe has been instilled as Business Development Director to further complement the new structure, and further down the hierarchy, the Company’s promotional strategy has bared fruit through seeing one of its junior engineers achieve chartered engineer status.
“This was mentored by in-house staff and MAATS’ Engineering Manager. Victoria Sharpe was also awarded her Fellowship. We are also proud to say that there have been no staff losses during the period.”
Holt hopes that sustainable developments such as these will edge him clearer to his own goal; to ride quietly into the sunset while leaving MAATS Tech “in the capable hands of a very competent engineering Group capable of delivering on complex engineering solutions, from concept through to manufacturing, installation and commissioning”.