APL opens new office in Kuala Lumpur

To the average Norwegian APL (Advanced Production and Loading) is not among the most well known companies. But to anybody in the oil and gas business APL is a name very well recognised in the international oil arena.
     In the North Sea, APL is a clear market leader when it comes to flexible, safe and cost-effective solutions for the offshore offloading industry, and in the world market, where the Dutch company SBM currently has about 50% of the market, APL also holds a significant share.
     The Norwegian company APL headquartered in a smallish town in the south of Norway, Arendal, already has subsidiary offices in Paris, Houston, Rio de Janeiro. With its new office in Kuala Lumpur, the company is now expanding its business further into new possible markets.
     APL was founded in 1993 to develop and commercialize the Submerged Turret Loading (STL) and the Submerged Turret Production (STP) systems. It is fair to say that they would never be where they are today without Statoil, the huge Norwegian oil company, as Statoil not only owned 50% of the company the first 5 years (and fully owned it from 1998), but also placed a lot of orders! In his inauguration speech the First secretary mentioned “the protective wings of Statoil”. Eventually, in 2004, the management of APL bought the full control of the company.
     The development of the STL technology was a result of a demand in the market for crude offloading and production systems highly usable in harsh environments, as especially represented in North Sea waters. The offloading systems available in the market at that time had clear limitations when facing operation in tough weather conditions.
     Today both systems are well established as the world’s first standardized turret systems. APL has also developed a vast range of other products in the years following, although all the new systems heavily rely on the same core technology. APL’s diversified range of offloading and production systems cater to all sorts of floating units.
      Looking to establish a presence in South East Asia, APL had done a research on the possible alternative locations. Malaysia was chosen for a number of reasons, CEO of the APL AS, Carl Arnet explained. Mr. Arnet highlighted the experience on oil/gas already existent in Malaysia, the high educational level, the reasonably good command of English and an advanced IT-development as the major factors.
     “Malaysia set out to be competitive in every aspect, there are relatively lower costs involved when doing business here compared to other countries in the region,” Mr. Arnet said.
     In addition he pointed out that Malaysia’s multicultural society with its willingness to open up to foreign businesses was important to their decision. As about 75 % of APL’s turnover already comes from Asia, it would be very natural for the company to finally open an office in this very region, he said, adding that it had been in consideration for some time.
      Mr. Arnet as well as CEO of APL Asia Sdn Bhd, Dagfinn Tegnander see a good potential for growth in the future.
     “Well, anyone can see there will be high demand for energy in this area in the future, and as the oil and gas industry is growing here in Southeast-Asia, the operations activity will also grow. We hope to approach the companies working here with competitive solutions.”
     “But, as a matter of fact, we have yet to receive any orders from the Malaysian home market! We know this will change, as there is need for our solutions here as well. The special extreme conditions in the North Sea don’t occur, but other types of extreme weather conditions as hurricanes and typhoons do definitely occur. This means that the maximum conditions can be the same.”
     “Our main sales argument is that we provide disconnectable systems, and we think the conditions in this area would benefit from such systems. What we normally do is to try assessing the needs of a possible client, work out some suggestions (which are of course to be altered in cooperation with the customer along the possible project), approach the customer and convince him that he needs our solutions. Basically we try to identify his needs before he knows them!”
      Attracting staff for the operation had not been a problem. The response from the Malaysian work force to the company’s first recruitment campaign had been very good, Mr. Tegnander said.
     “We have already recruited 10 engineers. We are now out with our second recruitment campaign, where we also hope to attract a few more experienced engineers, especially for the Principal engineer posts. We are very pleased with the engineers we have recruited though, they are young and eager, and they have already produced some really good work. We send them all to Norway for the required APL training, because we want to mould them into the APL way of doing things. We hope to be fully operational within the last quarter of 2005, when we will around 25 employees at the office here in Kuala Lumpur.
     In addition to the recruitment campaigns APL has established close contact with UPM (University Putra Malaysia), and offered to take in students for training programs.
     “Our vision is worldwide engineering capabilities, and as we also do our fabrication worldwide we need people able to supervise this in all our offices. All the offices service each other, which mean that an offloading system can be engineered and fabricated in totally different parts of the world.”

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