Samad Solbai: Ambition to Become World Champion

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WHO said that oil and gas investment in Indonesia is not lively or bright? PT Gunanusa Utama Fabricators has at least proven that the demand for offshore rigs still exists. This domestic company, which was established in the early 1980s, is currently constructing three offshore oil and gas platforms at a value of more than US$650 million.

“The platforms are made in Cilegon and will be installed at the Sea of Mumbai High in India, Siam Bay in Thailand and in Ujung Pangkah, East Java, and sent from Surabaya in East Java,” said Samad Solbai, president director of PT Gunanusa Utama Fabricators.

Generally, offshore platforms consist of two main parts or sections: the topside, module or deck for the processing equipment, residence, office and helipad; and the bottom part called the jacket consisting of stanchions installed in the ocean bed. “The construction of the offshore platform is 90 percent made of steel and the number of workers involved in the three projects is about 6,500, 99 percent of whom are Indonesians,” said Samad, who obtained his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Cambridge, the UK (Class of 1983).

Samad cannot conceal his pride in the fact that his company has given tough competition to foreign companies over the past five years. Presently in Indonesia there are five heavy industry companies like Gunanusa, with Gunanusa enjoying a 30 percent market share.

For 2011, Samad’s target is to maintain the company’s market share and that is why this year Gunanusa is aiming to win 10 tenders, six in the domestic market and four offshore platforms abroad. “Well, we may not get them all as usually we work on three projects a year,” said Samad, who was born in Johor, Malaysia, in 1951.

Samad is recognized as being among the world’s inventors. Samad, whose father is from Demak and mother from Pati, Central Java, discovered High Performance Polyethylene (HPPE), which is 10 times stronger than steel fiber. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on HPPE.

As a researcher, Samad has really applied his academic knowledge. He worked 13 years as a full-time lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (Malaysia University of Technology) School of Mechanical Engineering (1977-1990). But a change in circumstances lead to him working in the fabrication of offshore rigs or platforms. “I wanted to apply the theories that I had learned during my university days,” he said.

In 1990, he was appointed group general manager and head of the Engineering and Oil and Gas Division of Sime Darby Berhad and CEO/managing director of Sime Sembcorp Engineering Sdn. Bhd (SSE). However, in 2005 he received an offer to head PT Gunanusa Utama Fabricators, “So I have been in the industry for more than 20 years,” he explained.

Gunanusa was established by Iman Taufik in 1980. In September 1983, the company secured its first offshore platform project: an engineering and fabrication contract for two production facilities of Cinta Natomas constructed in the Java Sea.

After 20 years of existence, Gunanusa now is one the leading companies in offshore oil and gas fabrication in the ASEAN region. Due to its reliable track record, major oil companies entrust Gunanusa with their projects, such as Total, British Petroleum, Pertamina, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, YPF Maxus, CNOOC, PetroChina, PTTEP, Hess and ONGC. “We are a heavy industry domestic company that provides EPCI [engineering, procurement, construction, installation] services and as the contractor of offshore oil and gas platforms that has produced more than 100 such platforms,” emphasized Samad.

December 2006 can be called an important moment or mark in Gunanusa’s history, because the company built two offshore platforms for BP’s Tangguh in Papua, which were designed to last for 40 years, “This meant that the structures had to be fabricated with extra long-term corrosion protection that was exposed to many difficult and new challenges for offshore platform fabrication not commonly faced by fabricators elsewhere,” said Samad.

The challenging project proved how solid Gunanusa was. Due to its good management team, the company was awarded an ISO 9001 certificate by Lloyds Register in 1999 and a number of other awards for its safety achievements. Almost all of its projects are without accidents (loss-time accidents, LTA). Gunanusa was also listed as having the best safety record in June 2006 with 20 million man-hours without accident.

Gunanusa also has ISO 14001-2004 and OHSAS 18001-2007 certificates. The company also has U, U2 and S Stamps certificates for the manufacture of pressure vessels and boilers. “For a heavy industry company like ours, such certificates are necessary to ensure clients of our quality and to earn their trust,” he said.

In line with its commitment to advance related local industries, Gunanusa is an active member of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), the Association of EPC Contractors (Gapenri), the Association of General Contractors Gapensi), the Federation of Machinery and Metal Working Associations (Gamma) and the Indonesian Shipbuilding Association (Iperindo). “In these organizations not only we provide input but we also strive to reach the goals together,” he explained.

Samad said that based on the company’s four services — engineering, procurement, fabrication and construction, and hook up and installation — Gunanusa keeps seeking new opportunities. And all this can be achieved with a solid vision and mission.

Although a domestic company, Gunanusa has to be a global class company in the heavy industry. “Not only that, but we also must become a market-leading turnkey engineering company in the oil and gas and heavy construction industries. “To turn into a global company in 2011 we must have sustainable revenue, we must be able to deliver all projects within budget and schedule while meeting internationally acceptable quality and safety standards,” he emphasized. (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, February 12, 2011

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