A firm hold on the future
Houlder delivers design, analysis, engineering, innovation and project expertise across the maritime sector, specifically oil and gas, renewable energy, marine and gas ships.
Employing 140 in-house engineers, designers and project staff across locations in London, Aberdeen, Portsmouth and Tyneside, in late 2013 it set up an office in Houston, US. The core business is naval architecture and marine engineering and having built a reputation over the last 30 years for independent consultancy; it constantly expands its skills and capabilities. “We have followed the growth of the marine and offshore energy sectors into new markets, geographies and technologies. This has given us a breadth of expertise and depth of understanding that shapes all our work,” says chief executive officer, Rupert Hare.
Houlder’s clients include oil and gas majors, offshore vessel owners and operators, drilling contractors, pipe and cable layers, subsea inspectors, maintainers and repairers. In the last few years this has included BP Exploration, Shell Trading and Shipping Company, Ensco, Technip, Dolphin Drilling and others. “Essentially our customers are those companies that require marine equipment, offshore project engineering or marine design services. Recently the list has expanded to include those investing in offshore renewable energy and small-scale LNG infrastructure.
“We succeed by fully understanding our clients’ requirements. Whatever market they are in, customers are looking for trusted partnerships, dependable technical support and innovative solutions,” Rupert points out. Houlder has differentiated itself by delivering all three of these client requirements. Its engineers, naval architects, designers and project managers combine forces, forming joint project teams and work together with clients, to bring clarity to industry challenges, offering solutions with intellect, experience and practical knowhow. “Our engineering capability is our core business. We have a growing pool of talent and a continued commitment to recruit the brightest and the best in the industry from graduates to chartered engineers,” he adds.
Houlder is part way through a three-year contract delivering project management consultancy services to Libya’s Mellitah Oil and Gas B.V. including design, construction, delivery and hook-up of a new floating storage and offloading system (FSO) and associated subsea systems. The contract highlights a significant success for the company, which has helped secure 30 high value marine industry jobs. “Our biggest investment has been in people creating fully integrated teams that operate from our locations,” says Rupert. The company also continually invests in tools and technology, as he explains: “All our investment gives our clients access to increased capability and resources when and where they need it.”
Expansion into the US signifies Houlder’s position as a global operator, providing support to the world’s leading offshore operators and service providers. The ability to deliver local support is important to the business, which has a strategy to recruit and retain a knowledgeable and capable local workforce. However, it has a history of successfully working internationally with a significant presence in South Korea, and a portfolio of previous projects in regions from Norway to Singapore and South Africa. Closer to home, Houlder received Manufacturer of the Year in the 2013 South Tyneside Business Awards, in recognition of expansion in the North East of the UK and significant project successes. On receiving the award, project manager Andy Lovell described the relationship with clients, suppliers and workforce: “All the work has been done locally, with local suppliers and local fabricators.” It is an approach that has proven successful for the business and is mirrored across its sites in the UK and the US where local links drive the business forward.
Addressing the challenges poised by the expanding market, Rupert says: “Offshore wind infrastructure is getting bigger and more difficult to handle as construction work goes further offshore and into deeper waters. On the other hand our involvement in LNG is looking at smaller scale bunkering and ship-to-ship transfer. The race is on to prove LNG as a fuel is economically viable. Our oil and gas clients are also always looking for more efficient and effective equipment. Our commitment to fulfilling these requirements while achieving sustainable growth has meant adopting new systems and processes in all areas of the business, whilst continuing to achieve financial and business targets.
The business has several major projects to fulfill throughout 2014, including vessel design, equipment supply and project management consultancy, as well as attending Gastech 2014 in Korea. “We’ve invested significantly in the LNG market with interests in supporting LNG as fuel, LNG bunkering and feeder vessels, conversion to LNG burning propulsion, cargo handling and transfer and boil off gas management. We expect to see that have an impact in the market place this year, and our oil and gas business shows no signs of slowing up either. New people will be joining the team across the business and we’ll be rolling out new systems related to our expansion. It’s going to be busy; the company’s five-year plan to double growth and capacity is well on track, and we’re looking at the following five years for more ambitious growth. It would be easy for us to rest on our laurels, but that’s not our style,” he concludes.
Services: Provider of design, engineering services and equipment