Robin van der Bij: KML
“There’s an upward curve to negotiate when you start a new kind of pioneering project, you only have the existing kit of the time – and your ingenuity,” Robin van der Bij of KML told 'MJ'.
Then come the larger companies if the opportunities are promising enough... and inevitably “you could again, be looking for your new areas to develop”.
But no-one can deny the present market is especially challenging “and you have to keep on top of where it’s going next”, he admitted.
Against this backdrop, Robin van der Bij has taken a lead role with Keynvor MorLift (KML). The company has some very interesting assets to its name, including 150t capability crane barges “which in some instances are much more cost effective to deploy than jack-ups” and a very nimble, mini-subsea construction support vessel. “However, the balance is between focusing on where you can be most competitive – and keeping agile enough to jump from one segment to another.”
Amongst the ‘bread and butter’ jobs are those which play to specialist capability: “If you know the equipment, its strengths and limitations, and if you can show that you can shoulder a chunk of risk for the big contractors, you can still reap the rewards,” and added KML is well positioned to make the most of it.
His assessment is based on first-hand experience, “having started up two very different kinds of business from scratch”.
Although he’d been working for Seacore and other marine contractors, his first venture had little to do with the marine industry: a self-build ecohome evolved into a firm employing 25 people, giving him a feel for “organic growth”. Then suddenly in 2011 he was initiated into the world of corporate business. Fund manager Acteon threw him a sizeable challenge: ‘Set up a lifting and handling service for us’. Who could resist?
The road was well-paved: other companies in the group portfolio underpinned the marine engineering capability. The first sizeable contract was for the Alma Galia FPSO mooring project: this “was very technical and required a lot of pre-engineering... we had to work really hard to win confidence and trust”. But, he added: “It became a really exciting win.”
Others followed, “so within five years I’d built up a lifting equipment rental business for larger offshore construction companies like EMAS and Jumbo”, making LM Handling a well-known name.
But early in 2017 he was ready “to go full circle”. As KML helped deploy some of the first tidal turbines its history resonates with his own early experience on the first wind installations at North Hoyle; he sums both up briefly as “pioneering”.
Having seen both large ‘blue chip’ offshore operators and smaller companies at work: “Both sides have certain advantages,” he said, innovation on one hand, a company culture which can attract the right calibre people on the other.
In his view, merging the two could lift the very specialised, already high-profile KML even further, “to make it a key, and ultimately maybe global, player”.
By Stevie Knight
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