Some years ago, air shuttle service by aviation companies in the oil and gas industry was dominated by foreign organisations like Bristow Helicopters and CHC of Canada under Aero Contractors. However, in the last few years, Caverton Helicopters made an in-road to providing services to major oil and gas companies and actualising the local content policy of the federal government in the sub-sector.

This also opened the door to such companies as OAS helicopters, Toucan Aviation and others.
A new entrant into the sub-sector and the Chairman of Tropical Arctic Logistics (TAL), Emperor Chris Ibe told THISDAY on Sunday that for the Nigerian government to fully achieve the local content policy in the oil and gas sector, Nigerian companies that meet the required standard in terms of quality and safety should get fully involved in providing shuttle service and logistics to the sector, which offers vast opportunity to the citizens in terms of job creation and curtailing the existing capital flight in an industry that is dominated by foreign companies.
Ibeh, who said that before establishing the aviation company, he has put in 28 years in the oil and gas industry remarked that the shuttle service for the oil and gas industry is open to Nigerian companies and commended government for the local content policy and its effort to ensure that the policy is being implemented.

“TAL is a company that specialises in aviation services with a focus on offshore services and a little charter for helicopters and executive private jets. We started the company in the US. Shuttle service is a very highly technical and specialised area of business, but it is also a rich market. There is a yawning gap in the Nigerian aviation industry. One of the challenges we have in the aviation industry is compromising quality. Looking at the aviation industry it became very, very evident that we have a gap to fill up and with a population of about 200 million and Nigeria being the 9th largest oil producer in the world among OPEC member nations, we know we have quite a lot to offer in the oil and gas service. So we need to bridge that gap of quality, safety and professionalism,” Ibeh said.

He however noted that the major reason why Nigerian companies in the aviation sector was not doing well in providing service to the oil and gas industry in the past was lack of depth in the technical areas, poor standardisation, poor safety rating and poor customer service, but remarked that Nigerian companies have improved significantly in those areas.

On his entrant into the shuttle service sub-sector, Ibeh said TAL would provide service with AW139 and S92 type helicopters for offshore service and Gulfstream airplane for on-shore flights.
“Our core area for now is oil and gas services. At this moment, we have Bristow and Caverton operating in the sub-sector. The market is so huge and the opportunities are immense. We are coming in with competence, quality, safety and professionalism. This is why we are trying to break into this market. As a Nigerian company we are going to operate differently and this is a wholly 100 per cent Nigerian company. The operation is owned by TAL with technical partners coming from Ireland, the Rose Aviation, which is going to make sure that we maintain quality and safety in everything we do,” Ibeh said.

The Chairman of TAL also noted that the major challenge Nigerian companies face in the aviation industry is the long time it takes to complete paper work and the drills before a company would be certified to go into operation and remarked that it takes a long time, adding that it has taken TAL five years to go through the process of operating in the aviation sector.

The Chief Operating Officer of the company, Femi Adeniji said that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) needs more technical personnel, especially inspectors so that they would be able to attend to the needs of the airlines.

“We are in the drill for five to six years, just to get AOC (Air Operator Certificate) and we are still in the drill but we are not going to give up. The authority needs a lot of support. Part of the problem NCAA has is that they do not have enough inspectors and they need a lot of inspectors because if the inspectors are there and they are allowed to do their jobs without politics, things will be a lot easier and the aircraft safety will be ensured. We need a lot of incentives from government,” Adeniji who is seasoned aeronautical engineer said.
On how TAL would buffet through the competition in the sub-sector Adeniji said the company has prepared itself for the competition ahead.

“Your success stems from the way you service your customers and your safety record. You should allow your customers to realise that you are there for their service. Bristow has been in Nigeria since 1957; Caverton has been there since early 90s. I was the first African Chief Engineer in Bristow before I migrated to the United States so I am not scared of competition. The philosophy of TAL is integrity, safety and teamwork,” he said.