LEADING OILFIELD SERVICES SINCE 1972

Kuwait: 2018 | ENERGY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eng. Hussam Ali Marafie, Chairman & CEO of Gas & Oil Field Services Company (GOFSCO), on offshore operations, safety culture, and the predominance of the hydrocarbon industry in Kuwait.

Could you introduce the history of GOSCO and the scope of its services?

GOFSCO is one of the leading oilfield services companies in the country and was established in 1972. In the beginning, the company focused on upstream services for Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), and has since evolved and grown exponentially following the changes and developments in the market. Our slickline services started at a time when there was a large demand for preventive maintenance on the numerous wells being drilled here. I joined GOFSCO in 2005 and the company has been substantially revamped since then. The number of employees has increased from eight to 450 today and this is largely due to the strategic plan put in place to achieve our vision for the company. Part of this plan is to ensure that our workforce was world-class thus allowing us to bring many talented individuals on board. We also made considerable investments in our equipment and infrastructure to ensure that we were indeed able to service the industry in Kuwait in the best way possible. These calculated steps that we have taken have enabled GOFSCO to become one of the pillars of service companies in the country. We provide what clients want and speak their language. At the moment, we hold approximately 40% market share within our sector. Upstream to midstream oilfield services in Kuwait are our core service line, and we offer wide range of the oil field services that local market demands. Most of our services in Kuwait are served onshore, and the offshore market is completely new in Kuwait. New concessions should be awarded in 2018 and activity will follow after that. Our personnel and equipment backed by our long-standing experience are able to support both onshore and offshore oil field markets, and while having we plans to offer a wide range of offshore services to cope with the demand that will come in that segment in a year's time. The government also plans to make substantial investments in the country's hydrocarbon assets. Around 30% of these assets are offshore, and GOFSCO will certainly be part of the offshore expansion that is happening. We are very diverse in our company culture, we are very dynamic in changing our strategies to meet the new targets and to be aligned and cope with our country leadership vision.

As a local company with 45 years of experience, how has GOFSCO contributed to Kuwait?

Being a local company, we have to rely on our local resources to provide our services in a high-quality assurance and safe work environment. We own our equipment, bring the best talented workforce on board and train them, and provide services and solutions based on our long experience. Due to our long relationship with our clients, we have created a strong bond of trust, especially with KOC, which is our main client and is responsible for 90% of our work activities; we consider our relationship as a partnership rather than customer relationship. Another large client we have here is Kuwait Gulf Oil Company (KGOC). We take pride in being dynamic and flexible in providing our services to the local market. We have employees who have been with us for more than 30 years and this continuity gives us an advantage over any other player in the market. We are here to stay and have built up a strong knowhow and trust with our clients. We stand shoulder to shoulder with them to ensure they are able to reach their targets and fulfill their vision. One of our targets for the next three to four years is to increase the number of locals working in our company to over 70%. This is in fact is a win-win situation because the more competitive the market becomes, the more we want to keep our investment in the country. There is a high turnover of foreign staff in the oil and gas business because expatriate workers move around to new jobs internationally. Locals typically stay in the country until retirement. Provided the company plans properly, hiring more Kuwaitis will prove to be the right strategy. Localization gives us a more sustainable employment base in terms of turnover and our clients appreciate this stability as well.

How are you strengthening your position to become the preferred business partner for primary operators operating in the region?

GOFSCO's strategy is to have experienced people on board and ensure we have the most reliable equipment. We invest a great deal in both our people and equipment. We try to align ourselves with the challenges of our client and predict how we can fix any new issues they might have. For example, to adhere to our clients' production goals and schedules, we have equipment to test and service wells, both when they are producing and when they are shut off. Our assets and equipment have been able to accommodate all the changes that have happened in the market over 45 years. We understand the trends because of our experience here and have developed a strong database of market trends and client behavior. We also ensure all our equipment is state of the art. We position ourselves as a company with high standards that is comparable to any of the international players in the market. There are major players in the oil and gas sector that have their own R&D centers and produce their own latest technologies. In comparison, we draw on the numerous sources of new technologies that are available in the market today. We have a dedicated team that looks for changes and enhancements in technology for us to adopt. We also create a number of customized competitive solutions for our clients. What differentiates us is the 'flexibility' factor, to bring any proven technologies and solutions by importing them to our country.

How does GOFSCO ensure a constant commitment to the highest health, safety, and the environment (HSE) standards?

HSE are our core values and part of our culture at GOFSCO. We ensure on a daily basis that the safety culture is part of every employee's approach to work. We have a dedicated team, including certified people, who look after HSE. Every quarter, a team in charge of safety practices performs a site visit for spot checks to ensure all our safety standards are being applied and followed. Any accident—day or night—is immediately reported to me as part of our HSE procedures, and we have a fast response safety team. Every day the head of the team at every site holds a safety meeting to remind our onsite working employees about the safety procedures they need to follow, because we deal with high pressures and toxic gases on a daily basis. We also have a system of safety observations where staff can note down any safety issues that arise and we address these during a weekly staff meeting. These procedures have helped us avoid accidents.

Are you considering expanding internationally?

We are still evaluating the markets outside Kuwait. The most attractive markets as of now are Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Libya as they are less saturated with competition and are less complicated to bid in. Because of the turmoil in the region, we have revised our five-year plan and will focus on Kuwait. We have long been an integrated oilfield services company, though our local clients have opened up more doors to turnkey solution companies in recent times. Clients used to ask us to stick to what we know; however, their demands are changing. Currently, we attract experienced partners that can teach us in services that we did not do in the past. Working outside Kuwait is on hold at this stage while we concentrate on building our strengths inside the country and closing any gaps in our capabilities. My vision is to be a local oilfield services company that can be a strong arm for the country, providing all the solutions that are needed. We can acquire technology or close joint ventures with companies that can bring their know-how here and thereby help us create more opportunities for locals. Some 90% of Kuwait's income depends on oil and gas, and our young people should be aware of and understand the changes and challenges that are happening in this sector.