We have been working together for over a decade. A few doors down from our office in Rotterdam is the office of Smit Lamnalco. The company provides marine support all across the world in the most challenging environments. We speak with Peter Koster, Marine Manager Africa.
Could you introduce yourself for our readers? How did you end up working at Smit Lamnalco?
‘When I was nineteen years old I applied for a job at Smit. That was in December 1972. I started the following month and have worked for the company ever since. In those 46 years, I’ve held many different positions and I’ve lived all over the world. The most memorable period was definitely my time in the Bahamas, where we set up an office in 1997. I was the only expatriate, though I felt like a national too after a while. My office consisted of not much more than a laptop, which was cutting-edge technology back then, so much of my work was done on my lap. I’m still very proud of what we accomplished together over the eleven years I worked there.
Every market and region has its specific challenges and particularities. What are the main challenges for Smit Lamnalco?
‘Over the last decade or so, the worldwide recession has been the biggest challenge. It was slow to hit us, because we tend to work with long-term contracts up to ten years. But gradually, we noticed the effects. Prices in the oil and gas industry were under pressure and as a result ours were too. For quite a while, there weren’t too many developments and the new work that came in was limited as well. Economies across the world are doing better now, but just like the recession, the economic uptick has been slower to reach our market. There is a clear upward trend though and we are optimistic about where things are headed.’
What project is a good example of your services and core values and makes you proud?
‘Honestly, we’re proud of all the projects we do. Of course, there are the large, ten-year contracts for major oil companies. But for me personally, the projects in more extreme countries are the most special. For example, we started operations in Liberia in 2010. The country had just been through a war and was still licking its wounds. Nevertheless, we went over there and started work in the port of Monrovia and the port of Buchanan. It’s eight years later now and we’re still there and we’re still profitable. We localised part of the crew and people are happy. We have good relationships with our clients and the government. And we just signed a five-year extension on one of our contracts. In short, we’re still going strong over there and that’s something I’m proud of.
In what way do our services help you be successful?
‘Smit Lamnalco is specialised mainly in terminal towage. We work for oil majors all across the globe assisting tankers during berthing and unberthing or on an export or import buoy. However, we’re not specialised in sailing our vessels half-way across the world. Of course our people are used to working offshore or off the coast, but sailing from one continent to another requires a different skill set. That’s where TOS comes in. They have the specialists in terms of sailing and seamanship. What’s more, they are masters at sailing ships in the most economic way possible: finding the exact right balance between speed and burning fuel.’
How has the collaboration been with TOS? How would you characterise it?
‘The collaboration has been excellent. What stands out is TOS’ flexibility. Sometimes a change of plans is unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances come up. TOS doesn’t seem to skip a beat whenever that happens. Taking care of the unexpected seems like business as usual for them. What’s also important for us is that TOS has professionals available to perform the tougher tasks. A good example is a recent delivery, where a tug towed two smaller tugs on two separate lines from Nigeria all the way to Greece. A complicated job, but all problems were taken care of. The captain came by our office the other day to debrief. He shared his experiences and advice, which is a valuable way for us to keep learning. It’s typical for the openness and honesty of our relationship. All in all, I’d say we’re good neighbours.’