An experienced business leader, Dan Ngakane, African Marine Solutions Group (AMSOL) CEO, has a track record spanning 20 years across the energy, transport and mining sectors. SOUTH AFRICAN BUSINESS INTEGRATOR spoke to him about unlocking opportunities within the Blue Economy. DAN NGAKANE | AMSOL CEO
What are your thoughts on the potential of the Blue Economy, and how does AMSOL feature in this?
I believe that the Blue Economy holds significant potential considering Africa’s strategic location between America and Europe, which has made it a critical region for shipping routes and maritime trade.
Positioned between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the extensive African coastline provides access to major sea routes. It is also home to a wealth of marine resources, making it well-positioned to harness the benefits of the Blue Economy. Africa’s waters are not only rich in fish stocks but also in minerals and oil and gas reserves – if managed well, these resources can drive economic growth.
As a maritime player in the region which provides marine services to clients in-port and offshore in South Africa, Ghana, Namibia and Mozambique, AMSOL is committed to the future sustainability of the oceans economy which is why we prioritise
localisation in each of our areas of operation. By doing this we ensure that AMSOL stakeholders in the region derive benefit from the company’s success.
What is required holistically to realise the positive impact the Blue Economy can bring about?
Realising the potential of the Blue Economy in Africa requires a sustainable approach, which would include amongst other things:
- Promoting localisation to ensure that local communities benefit from the sector through job creation, skills development, and the procurement of goods and services from local businesses.
- In the energy sector, prioritising safety and risk management in oil and gas operations to prevent incidents and ensuring safety of life and the protection of the environment.
- Enhancing transparency and accountability to prevent unethical conduct and ensure that revenues benefit the country or region from which the resources come.
- Creating stability through a predictable legal environment with clear and consistent legislation.
- Collaborating with other industry stakeholders to access technical expertise, share knowledge, and build competency within the African maritime sector.
What are some key projects that AMSOL is working on, and how will this enable positive and sustainable growth?
As a company that services clients in different sectors for both long term and short-term contracts, we have a range of projects which we are currently involved in that support critical elements of the Blue Economy and its value chain. These include:
- The management, operation, and maintenance of offshore tanker terminals (both fuel and LPG, ensuring continuity of fuel supply);
- The delivery of marine fuel on behalf of Oil Majors using tankers and bunker barges;
- Use of vessels to support specialised research operations including marine life, fish stocks and climate;
- The provision of offshore supply solutions using supply launches and a DPII AHTSV servicing the world’s largest offshore diamond mining fleet and offshore production facilities;
- The management of specialist vessels and delivery of a comprehensive manning, procurement, and maintenance solution to ship owners, including South Africa’s Antarctic supply and environmental research vessels; and
- The provision of a proactive pollution prevention service in partnership with the South African Government using a versatile offshore tug and experienced emergency response personnel.
What are the Blue Economy opportunities from mining, and oil and gas perspective?
Africa is known for its wealth of natural resources, and many African countries have significant deposits of various minerals. The economic opportunities in these sectors primarily revolve around the exploration, extraction and exportation of these mineral resources and often unique transhipment operations together with marine support activities are required.
Oil and gas exploration and production can contribute significantly to a country’s economic growth through employment opportunities such as drilling, engineering, logistics and support services; investment in infrastructure within ports to support the exploration and production activity; and eventually through the sale of the resources. We can also increase the energy security of the country so that it is less dependent on importing energy resources. Continuity and consistency in the value chain to high international HSE standards are critical in these high risk marine projects.
How does AMSOL assist these sectors?
AMSOL provides upstream support to the offshore oil and gas sector in which risk management, safety, environmental protection, and experience is key. The company offers solutions that fulfil a variety of specialist marine requirements and are delivered to high international standards.
Our involvement in these diverse operations means that skilled AMSOL personnel are sought after for specialist and complex projects – and each job is an opportunity to ensure that African seafarers and offshore personnel build essential experience required for the future sustainability of the oil and gas sector.
To ensure that we retain these scarce skills for future opportunities, AMSOL focuses on experiential training and development. This allows for exposure to new operations and the company’s fleet of anchor handling tug supply vessels, tankers, bunker barges, offshore supply launches and specialist vessels operating in South Africa, Namibia and Ghana serve as the training platform.
What are the key highlights of AMSOL’s activities in these sectors?
Recent operations include a charter to Azinam in support of the drilling of an exploratory well off of South Africa’s west coast, which provided an opportunity for seafarers on the AHTSV ‘Umkhuseli’ to prove their anchor handling experience under offshore exploration conditions as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
The Umkhuseli conducted intensive anchor work for the Gazania project and pre-laid an 8-leg mooring system before the rig Island Innovator arrived on site. This process required pre-tensioning of the anchor legs to over 200 tons. As a result, the rig was able to immediately go onto her spread when she arrived without any down time and commenced drilling without delay.
The tug provided continuity in support services to the client’s team for the duration of the project and once the well was
completed, recovered the mooring spread and returned it to Cape Town.
A number of maintenance interventions on the Single Point Mooring (SPM) terminal offshore from Durban have provided similar opportunities for exposure to new operations. In 2020 and 2021, maintenance work included the replacement of all eight anchor legs of the mooring system.
In 2022, during a scheduled outage period, AMSOL was contracted to provide engineering, procurement, and construction services for the replacement of the 70-metre-long north and south subsea hoses. Project teams often include junior
seafarers, divers, and support staff as a means of exposing personnel to niche operations under controlled, risk managed conditions.
How does AMSOL leverage technology in its operations?
AMSOL has been able to invest in new assets in recent years which provides our seafarers with opportunities to work with newer technology and innovation across the fleet.
It is definitely a key strategic focus area for the business as we look into the future. We use an effective International Ship Management Code Compliant Ship Management system developed in-house and also implement cutting edge systems that use artificial intelligence to alert us to potential cyber threats and autonomously respond to and prevent cyber-attacks.
How does your background in the mining and energy sectors assist AMSOL in optimising efficiencies under your leadership?
Having worked in the mining and energy sectors that now form part of AMSOL’s target market, I understand what these clients want and can therefore offer new insight which is based on a client-centric approach.
There are also many similarities in these sectors due to the critical nature of its operations, which means I can use my previous experience to drive the safety culture. I also bring a fresh perspective into the business which is often a catalyst to unlock value in similar settings.
Tell us a bit about driving economic prospects while taking into consideration environmental and legislative factors.
Protection of the environment is a key priority at AMSOL – it is our license to operate, which is why we take it so
AMSOL remains committed to the protection of the environment in which we provide marine solutions to our clients and comply with the highest international standards. We participate in frequent external audits and verifications and implement best practice in technical and operational excellence.
Our approach to sustainability underpins all of our operations. An example of this is our partnership with the Department of Transport over the last two decades to protect the South African coastline, which demonstrates our commitment to protecting the marine environment.
What is required from the marine, mining, oil and gas, transport, legislative and environmental sectors to address the realities SA faces?
We need to continue our unwavering commitment to transformation and investing in education.
This has been a priority at AMSOL for many years and we invest in both statutory and developmental training to support our talent pipeline.
In support of the Sector Education and Training Authority’s strategic goals, AMSOL’s Cadet Training Programme included 38 trainees and cadet candidates in 2022; the largest number that has ever been taken for both navigation and engineering learnerships.
58% of trainees and cadets are black females. The company has also extended the trainee programme to Namibians for Namibian operations.
By investing in training and development we are expanding the talent pool and building a skilled workforce that can drive the future sustainability of these diverse sectors.
In addressing our energy challenges, we need to think differently for the medium and long term and implement multiple solutions as we navigate a way forward. I am positive that leveraging projects in the energy sector can impact social challenges to address skills development needs as well