|IHC Engineer Business’ Hi-Traq trenching system, launched in May. Photos from Royal IHC.|
Elaine Maslin spoke to Bram Roelse, the CEO at Royal IHC—the new name for Dutch firm IHC Merwede.
Last year was one of Dutch shipbuilding company Royal IHC’s (IHC) busiest years. The offshore division secured the largest order in company history while undergoing changes in both its ownership and organizational structure.
The largest order, worth over €1 billion, was for the design, engineering and construction of a total of six pipelaying vessels. The six ships are for Subsea 7 and Seabras Sapura, the partnership between SapuraKencana and Seadrill. Seabras Sapura’s three vessels will be fully-integrated IHC vessels, sporting, for example, IHC’s pipelay systems. All six vessels will work for Petrobras offshore Brazil, joining three other recently completed, fully-integrated IHC pipelay vessels, also for Seabras Sapura.
It was also a significant year for Chief Executive Officer Bram Roelse. Previously IHC’s Dredging Division Director, Roelse was appointed to the board as chief operating officer in 2012 before being made interim CEO. He was named permanent CEO this April.
Roelse, who has been with IHC for 13 years, has his sights set on growth, particularly in the firm’s equipment offering. He also wants to grow the business internationally, and through acquisitions.
Bram Roelse, IHC CEO
“In our opinion, vessels should be one part of the business, alongside the life cycle business, which helps clients, day-to-day on operations, with training, supplying parts, and revamping equipment. The third opportunity, and a bigger area for the business, is developing our equipment —e.g. IHC Hydrohammer, IHC Handling Systems, IHC Offshore Systems, and IHC Engineering Business, and we would like to develop that more,” he says.
Offshore has been an area of growth for IHC. Its business units develop and supply systems, including trenching, pipelaying, and handling, as well as mooring systems, riser pull-in systems, and offloading systems, hydraulic systems, and electrical power and automation systems. Its UK-based business, IHC Engineering Business, bought by IHC Merwede in 2008, had a record order book in 2013, chalking up £200 million of export orders.
Much of the technology development focus is on automation, Roelse says, to minimize operator interaction. The firm’s pipe laying system, for example is fully-automated. The firm recently delivered its first pipelay simulator, replicating simulators already developed for the dredging business.
To meet the firm’s growth aims, IHC is also already looking at acquisitions, Roelse says. “We are looking at a couple of options (outside The Netherlands) as we speak. We will probably divest a couple of the smaller operations in the group as well.”
But Roelse is not complacent. “The whole market is looking at capital costs,” he says. “That is something for us to focus on and it is a design issue. It is our business, trying to find solutions for complex projects in the most economical way.”
The Sapura Diamante at Royal IHC’s Krimpen yard before delivery earlier this year.
The market is also struggling with more ups and downs than 10-15 years ago, he says, with higher tips and lower troughs. “That means being able to react in a quick way to customer demands and having equipment on stock is also very important,” he says.
IHC has already achieved some success doing this in the offshore renewables market by offering piling and specialist handling tools, through in-stock availability and tried and tested solutions, according to the firm’s latest report. Roelse says offering a good financial package, while firms are still unable to secure bank funding, also helps customers it today’s global economic environment.
Royal IHC marks its 70-year jubilee this year. “The timing was right to write up our history,” says CEO Bram Roelse. “It has been 70 years since the restart of the business after World War II and we still have some of our older staff and retired staff from the last 20 years who knew the founding fathers from a generation before.”
To mark the anniversary, IHC launched a 300-page book detailing the company’s history in several phases, how it has survived challenges while looking at the national and international impact of the business over the years.
His Majesty the King has awarded the honorary title of Koninklijk (Royal) to IHC Merwede. In light of the honorary title, the company has decided to change its name to Royal IHC and will also include the royal crown in its revised corporate identity.
IHC saw revenues of £984 million in 2013, and now has more than 3000 employees based at various locations in The Netherlands, Brazil, China, Croatia, France, India, Malaysia, the Middle East, Nigeria, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, the UK, and the US.