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Drydocks World emerging strong from the financial crisis says Geoff Taylor, Group CEO

With the shipping industry still trying to find its path on the aftermath of the biggest financial crisis since the second World War, Drydocks World is looking to establish its place as one of the leading shipyards of the world. In an interview with

Hellenic Shipping Worldwide, Group CEO, said that according to customers, cost effectiveness and innovation are the company’s main strengths. Since the beginning of the year, Drydocks World has seen a marked upswing in new business for repair, conversion and newbuilding orders. “Our shipyard in Dubai continues to fare well in its major business area: ship repair. Having repaired 107 vessels between January and May, we are on course to meet our annual target of more than 300 vessels” said Mr. Taylor.
Geoff Taylor joined Dubai Drydocks in 1984 during the shipyards second year of operation. Over the last 25 years he has served the company in a number of roles, aspiring to the position of Technical Director in 2000 and Chief Executive Officer in 2004. With the formation of Drydocks World in 2007 Geoff is now the Group CEO of Drydocks World. Having been closely associated with the business, in both hands on and managerial positions, he has a well-rounded and very practical understanding of the ship repair, building and conversion sectors. He has been personally involved in the expansion and development of the shipyard in Dubai and this knowledge is now being adapted to enhance the group’s four new shipyards in SE Asia.

Talk us through your company’s strengths in terms of the business areas it’s currently active?

Drydocks World has been known worldwide as a leading provider of ship repair services, mainly in our Middle East yards headquartered in Dubai, since start of operations in 1983.
Recently, market perception has taken on awareness of our strong operations in South East Asia, and also our diverse newbuilding capabilities in both the Middle East and SEA.
According to an in-house research study we recently undertook, in order to better understand our own position and enhance customer service if possible, our main strengths are perceived as cost effectiveness and innovation. The abilities to communicate our corporate message and to deal with client requirements effectively were also positively noted. For a shipyard corporation, I can’t think of any boxes more important to be ticked!

How is the company faring so far in 2010?

It is fair to say that the global financial crisis presented tough times for the marine and shipping sectors, just as it did for almost every other industry, and we were not unaffected. During the crisis, however, through a combination of hard work and effective planning, we were able to consolidate and maximize our existing workbook thanks to the excellent relationships we enjoy with clients.
Moreover, since January this year we have seen a marked upswing in new business for repair, conversion and newbuilding orders. Our shipyard in Dubai continues to fare well in its major business area: ship repair. Having repaired 107 vessels between January and May, we are on course to meet our annual target of more than 300 vessels.

How big is your company’s presence among Hellenic ship owners?

Drydocks World ““ Dubai repaired 21 vessels belonging to Greek owners and management companies in 2009. Although we were fully prepared for that number to significantly increase this year, had market conditions been different, we are pleased now to expect at least equal status achievement.
Greece, being the largest shipowning nation, is of natural interest to us here at Drydocks World. We have an established local presence through our agents in Athens and our participation at Posidonia has grown over the years to include representation from our SEA facilities. This participation, besides re-invigorating our partnership with existing clients who are prominent ship owners, has also helped us introduce our range of services to new clients. We are planning to build on this in the next few weeks.

Would you be interested in setting up a ship repair facility in Hellas?

Our Greek customers like the logistical advantage afforded to them by our facilities in the Middle East. Our yards in SEA also provide a huge benefit to Greek owners and operators concerned with relevant trade routes. In both world areas, we are able to offer substantially attractive prices alongside the reliability of skilled, experienced people who understand Greek business culture.
Our Greek customers also feel safe in the knowledge that clear channels of communication are in place and that language barriers do not exist. When a project comes to Drydocks World, wherever it is handled ““ in the Middle East or Asia, our customers always feel in control. They never feel they are just trusting in a suspiciously cheap price in a remote or isolated location.
Drydocks World ““ Dubai, the largest shipyard in the Middle East, is located along an extremely busy trading route. Therefore, vessel repairs can be done conveniently and most often without accruing deviation costs. The climate in Dubai is ideal for all-year-round activity, too. The rain-free conditions make it a perfect venue for hull treatment and silicone paint applications.
Drydocks World ““ Dubai has been in operation since 1983. Since then we have repaired over 6300 vessels of all sizes and belonging to all major ship owners around the world. We have completed 23 vessel conversion projects, including several FSO and FPSO jobs, and have built 71 vessels and offshore structures. We have a highly skilled, experienced and well-trained labour force recruited from leading shipyard nations all round the world. We are one of the few shipyards that rely largely on its own workforce to meet production requirements.

During the past couple of years, we’ve been witnessing a wave of ship conversions? Which are the most standard conversions and what does Drydocks offer in that domain?

Although there is not really any such thing as a “standard’ conversion, our yards in the Middle East have typically done most work on FSO and FPSO projects. The Dubai yard specifically has completed 23 projects of various scope and scale since starting work on its first conversion project in 1996.
The shipyard has graduated to taking on complex projects and successfully managing and delivering them on schedule. FPSO Frade converted for Chevron for the Frade oilfield off Brazil, which sailed in early 2009, is the largest conversion in terms of volume of work. It took in a phenomenal 13 million man-hours.
Presently, in Dubai we are converting the LNG Golar Frost into the FSRU Livorno, a weather-vaning offshore FSRU. This is undoubtedly one of our most sophisticated and technically challenging projects to date.

How many projects of that kind do you undertake per year?

Drydocks World ““ Dubai handled 5 conversion projects simultaneously in 2009, which is the highest concurrent number we have yet processed. That we were able to do so was made possible, in part, through our capacity enhancement via two additional conversion berths, which were completed in April 2009.

Are you planning new investments in other yards around the world, or maybe expanding your already established facilities?

Options for future expansion of our existing facilities, and engagement in other world areas, are constantly researched and reviewed as part of our ongoing corporate strategy. At the moment, with most world markets still emerging from the global financial crisis, we are content to consolidate our positions in the Middle East and SEA.

How are the efforts to restructure the company’s loans been developing?

Drydocks World is unaffected by the financial issues concerned with Dubai World. In terms of our own debt restructuring, we are unable to elaborate on statements we have already made as positive discussions are ongoing.

Which are the biggest challenges for your business moving forward?

Our priority has always been to provide the best value for money portfolio of services to our customers. Our commitment to standards that make our customers happy is at the heart of our corporate ethic. A client can rest assured in the knowledge that their project is in the best of hands when we take it on. Good communication at all times, a two-way flow of information between us and the client, is imperative to creating this security and is something we strive to provide at all times.
In our core areas, repair, conversion and newbuild, we are actively generating packages and incentives to appeal to customers in different parts of the world. What is appealing to an operator based in Norway is not necessarily the same as what is most important to an owner in Hong Kong or the Far East. It is a vital matter of understanding business cultures, from hub to hub, and implementing flexible practices, schemes and bespoke business models to fully cater.
Elsewhere, we have not only been confident enough to build vessels such as AHTS units speculatively ““ four have just been sold from our SEA operation ““ but we have also expanded into the area of windfarm installation vessels.
In addition, we have just established Drydocks World Offshore, a new business unit with comprehensive services for greater engagement with the offshore sectors.
Moving ahead through the rest of this year and into the foreseeable future, our performance forecasts are very positive. Our mission is unchanged: it is to secure and maintain our position as the world’s top shipyard corporation.

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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