Olabode Makanjuola

Chief Executive Director, Caverton Offshore Support Group, Olabode Makanjuola, speaks on the firm’s recent acquisitions and the need for continuous innovation and capacity to maintain efficiency and proficiency in the ownership and operation of offshore support services. Chinedu Eze writes

Caverton Nigeria, an indigenous company with operations in major cities in the state, has since inception risen to become the biggest offshore logistics service provider in Nigeria. The company in response to the Nigerian government’s Local Content Act has aimed to substantially increase indigenous participation in the local oil and gas industry, thereby positioning itself as one of the leading indigenous oilfield services companies in Nigeria. Its commitment to the development of the local aviation and maritime industry and increased participation of indigenous operators is evident in its growth over the years.

It has made immense investment across Nigeria, growing operational bases and fleet of aircraft.

Over the years, the group has positively impacted the socio-economic development of the country through various stakeholders, clients, employees and communities alike. Its global workforce has grown remarkably.

With its rapidly expanding fleet of aircraft and vessels coupled with its acquisition of key offshore assets and strategic partners, the group is able to provide diverse range of services to its clients, ensuring their objectives are completely fulfilled, offshore and on land. To this end, the company recently completed the acquisition of 12 helicopters. It has taken delivery of three while the remaining nine would arrive in a matter of weeks. This acquisition is an addition to the 22 fleets of helicopters currently in operations.

This was targeted at expanding its capacity and building a world-class firm that can compete favourably with globally recognised organisations.

Safety is very vital in the aviation industry and the company’s record of 100 per cent safety testifies to the fact that it takes this part very seriously.

According to Chief Executive Director, Caverton Offshore Support Group, Olabode Makanjuola, “We have put in place very stringent procedures built around local and foreign standards; our ethos of safety is embedded in us. It is our top priority and we are very committed to this.

“So far we have raised the standards of through our safety practices. Considering the nature of the industry, this is probably why there are a few players in the sector and we still maintain the largest share in Nigeria right now owing to our safety records.”

Caverton takes pride in putting safety and quality at the core of its business and has been rewarded for this by its growing customer base. For instance, in September 2014, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) awarded the company the “Shell Safety Conscious Award” in recognition of its safety conscious culture. Recently, it also won the contract to service the Chevron Company, a testament to the standard it has operated over the years.

The company also boasts several infrastructure spread across the country. Presently, they have a massive hanger at the Lagos airport, which is their actual base.

The company’s helipad is situated at Ozumba-Mbadiwe, even though they also have two hangers in Port Harcourt situated at the Air Force base, including a base in Osubi, Warri and another coming up in Cameron.

With the winning of the Chevron contract, another base in Escravos is in the works.

Makanjuola explained further, “We have a diverse fleet of helicopters numbering about 22. Different sizes both fixed and road trip, also considering the new aircraft that are arriving soon.

“They vary from a Booster Wesler139 with a capacity of 15 passengers to the Bell 407 with a capacity of five passengers. Then we have the fixed wing, the Trinoter which is on a contract for Shell and also another in Cameron, both with a capacity to carry about 20 passengers. The bell 412 is basically a mid-size aircraft.”

The aviation industry has attained a huge growth over the period and numerous players are springing up in the industry with stronger focus on infrastructural development.

Before Caverton commenced operation in 2008, there were limited facilities on ground. But now there are many and there is more push for more infrastructural development. The strong desire to match global practice has led to significant growth.

Makanjuola explained, “For instance, when we started, no one gave us the opportunity to break into the oil and gas space. The major players then were Bristow Helicopters and Aero contractors and the major oil players, Shell and Chevron, were serviced by foreign firms.

“There was no opportunity for any local player. Today, that story has changed; Caverton now services both Shell and Chevron.

“More so, the past years witnessed only few companies tendering bids for oil and gas sector, but today it is a different ball game, because many other indigenous companies such as Oas, Nestoil and others have developed and are bidding for different services in the aviation space.

“The aviation sector has now expanded and people are open to investing in infrastructure as opposed to just being agents for foreign entities.”

Clearly, building capacity and infrastructure development are key to compete favourably in the aviation sector, which was why Caverton took a giant leap to become the first indigenous firm to build helipads and hangers.

The company has clearly taken the lead in infrastructural development, thus serving as a benchmark in the local content drive for enormous capacity building. They have submitted themselves to a higher level of scrutiny to be at par or even surpass their competition. They have pushed boundaries to enable and empower them to control the market.

Makanjuola stated, “With the Chervron contract, we don’t have any technical partners, it is 100% Caverton contract. We intend to keep it that way. Hence, the Engineers, Pilots, are on our employ are mainly Nigerians.

“This is something we take pride in and it should be encouraged. The feedback we get from our manufacturers and partners further inform our decision to consolidate our services, as companies are more inclined to work with you who have a full setup.”

He added, “When you consider the ‘Nigerian factor’ with an appetite for foreign goods and services, it is surprising how one can break even. First we have to give God the glory for such a feat.

“The board, including the chairman who had the foresight, has been very outstanding and supportive. Though they were apprehensive at first, they had to buy into it, and the success is to be able to control such projects.

“Otherwise we would have resorted to partnering with a foreign firm to provide support services while we fold our arms and watch which won’t help us grow as an entity, nor a state.”

With an invisible path on the back, Makanjuola also said,“Globally, we stay very relevant.”

But like with every project of this size, one major challenge in the industry is financing. Yes they might be lucky enough to attract foreign financing but will most likely be faced with double digit interest which, in itself, can kill any business.

Financing a business like this is highly capital intensive as they are a dollar denominated entity and as such can get very dicey when raising funds. In the light of this, Caverton’s concern about service delivery surpasses the challenges. They are more focused on the possibilities and this has propelled their drive to move against the tide to attain their level of successes, Makanjuola said.

Another major challenge they face is security, which is majorly a FAAN controlled sector. Issues such as cattle on the runway that could stall an airline for over 15 minutes, or people breaking into baggage hole or luggage area are also of concern.

They have had to handle such issues decisively so it doesn’t result in a major catastrophe.

Caverton is also currently building the largest commercial Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Centre (MRO) in Nigeria, the first of its kind. This would cater for the fixed and rotary wing and is expected to be ready by 2019. It will cater for both helicopters and fixed wings and will be run by local and foreign employers.

Makanjuola said, “The local content has helped the industry. Bank of Industry, some commercial banks, and also government support, have helped to encourage the industry, especially if you have the right structure in place.

“Beyond that, it’s really about us helping each other locally in terms of development. For instance, you don’t say local content and have expatriates all working for you – yes there is a competent level and training that has to be maintained – but promoting local content requires that you give back your bit to promote the policy that has enabled you.

“That is why we have one of the highest number of trained indigenous pilots and engineers go through our system till date. I will be surprised if any organisation has the same level of composition of people as we do.

“Over 70% of our pilots are Nigerians. We have both male and female pilots. And everyone undergoes the same level of training to be fully qualified as a pilot. Our safety record speaks for us on our competence.”

Makanjuola says Caverton intends to re-invest in opportunities both in the oil and non-oil sectors. The ultimate aim of the firm is to be the benchmark for indigenous offshore logistics service providers in Nigeria..