A partner for the UAE’s offshore momentum MARCAP Samer-QIBLAWI

When a foreign company enters the UAE, it needs a local gate opener to guide the way.

Samer QIBLAWI President and CEO MARCAP

A partner for the UAE’s offshore momentum

February 7, 2023

Samer Qiblawi, president and CEO of Marine Capabilities (Marcap), talks to The Energy Year about the key role of partnerships in gaining offshore market share and the challenges and trends found in fleet building and modernisation. Marcap is a marine services provider serving oilfield and construction companies across the Arabian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea.

To what extent are partnerships key to gaining market share given the current offshore momentum?
The marine sector is experiencing a good momentum, which is aligned with the ramping up of the hydrocarbons sector. High oil prices have obviously been a driver, kick-starting an array of offshore projects in the region. Countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are determined to hit their production targets in the next four to five years, which guarantees a steady uptick in offshore operations across the GCC.
On this note, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait recently signed an MoU to develop the Durra gasfield, while Qatar also has its foot on the gas, trying to capitalise on the changing global gas dynamics. There is plenty of excitement in the oil and gas market now, and this is positively impacting our sector.
This range of opportunities is also drawing newcomers to the market. When a foreign company enters the UAE, it needs a local gate opener to guide the way, a local firm that complies with the country’s requirements, standards and business culture. In this sense, we can be a partner of choice for many of these companies. We look at newcomers not as competition, but rather as potential partners. We have an obvious competitive edge over any international firm as we have been here for many decades. Thus, through partnerships we enter into a win-win situation.
Recently we closed an agreement with E-NAV Radiance, a Mexican-based marine company. They were looking to deploy some of their vessels in this region and it turned out to be a perfect match for us. We helped them mobilise two of their vessels, brought them up to the requirements of the local market and deployed them in our project in Saudi Arabia. Partnerships like these are essential to capitalise on the momentum our industry is experiencing.

In what ways has the pandemic prepared Marcap for the good times?
The last couple of years have been tough but we managed to successfully keep our head above water. One of the important levers allowing this was the resilience of our team and our family-oriented spirit. Not only did we strive for the safety of our workers, we also made sure to retain our crews. We have a high retention rate, and more than 55% of our crew members have been with us for 5-10 years. We also kept our vessels on charter to ensure business continuity and to be ready for the good times. These steps have given us an even higher level of competitiveness.
In fact, in February 2020 we even mobilised two new vessels from Singapore to send them to Saudi Arabia. We did not stop regardless of the weather or difficulties, and it prepared us for the good momentum we have today.


What growth strategies have you taken in line with market demand?
Last year, we increased our fleet, adding around seven to eight vessels to our portfolio. For instance, in February 2022 we managed to add four DP2 [dynamic positioning] vessels and two crew boats. Some are working for ADNOC while the others have been sent to work in Saudi Arabia.
We have a total of 25 assets and we are aiming to increase our fleet by a further 50% by the end of 2023. We have ambitious expansion plans but they are, at the same time, conservative. When it comes to asset acquisition, we are looking at unique types of vessels that are built and engineered for this area. These are shallow-draught vessels, with good fuel consumption and with versatile capabilities as well. However, we are looking to grow our share and presence in the market through a combined strategy of acquisitions, chartering and partnerships.

What major challenges and trends do you see in fleet building and modernisation?
Fleet building and modernisation, although critical, is slow at this moment. Firstly, around 50% of shipyards are not there anymore, as they took a harsh hit during the pandemic. Also, China is the main shipbuilder but is still under lockdown.
Secondly, the global logistics supply chain is locked. And thirdly, the whole industry is seeing how carbon footprint reduction is becoming crucial. There are more than 16 kinds of green fuels and green shipping is a concept that is more relevant than ever. If one sees the acquisitions made lately, these are normally existing vessels and not brand-new ones. We live in a moment of “wait and see” where everyone is cautious to see what types of engines are more suitable – hydrogen, hybrid, LNG, etc.
Apart from the sustainability aspect, technology application is fundamental in the modernisation of fleets, as these must adapt to changing industry requirements. To this end, in November 2022 we signed an MoU with Columbia Shipmanagement that will propel innovation and shape the technological future of the maritime sector in the Middle East Gulf region. The scope of this agreement will focus on ship management, crewing, IT and performance optimisation, and will work to identify new opportunities to challenge the existing status quo by generating vessel performance optimisation models.

How important is the preventive maintenance schedule (PMS) system to upgrade Marcap’s operational performance?
We use the PMS system to guarantee vessel performance. PMS is a very important tool for us, as a dynamic system. It helps us maintain our vessels, and extend their lifecycle. Moreover, the system has to be periodically adjusted based on the age of the engine and other components of a vessel.
Additionally, the PMS requires a data collection system and from there, data can be monitored and analysed and then we take action. The system can determine how many hours a given piece or engine can run before it needs a replacement or will break down. It measures the need for an oil change. This technology is widely used in the marine industry and helps us enhance our performance, based on the concept of predictive maintenance.

What relationship does Marcap have with regional NOCs and how are you upgrading your internal performance?
In the UAE our major client is ADNOC – represented by ADNOC L&S. At the same time, we work with other entities such as TotalEnergies and NPCC [National Petroleum Construction Company]. We have a good rapport with NOCs, and this is also seen in Saudi Arabia, where we work with Aramco and KJO as our major clients. In terms of work, 60% of our vessels are in the UAE, 35% in Saudi Arabia and 5% elsewhere. Apart from solidifying our presence in the UAE we are also looking to expand to other markets. The Red Sea is an interesting area, as well as the Mediterranean – Egypt, Lebanon and Cyprus.
As for our short-term goals, we are now focusing on improving our internal business process. In this journey, we are elevating our training level and capabilities, channelling experience and knowledge to our team. We have also started an awareness programme to raise understanding of sustainability including CO2 reduction. This goes together with energy efficiency. We are looking to add monitoring systems for fuel consumption, and seeing how we can reduce the fuel’s environmental impact. Lastly, when it comes to assets, we are increasing our fleet and looking into new markets.

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