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World’s number one service company

Interview - May 14, 2012
Lennox Petroleum Services Ltd. is a provider of general oilfield contracting services. Wayne Persad, Managing Director, talks to United World about Trinidad and Tobago’s oil sector, and of his company’s wide range of services and the superior skills level of its employees

What is your opinion on the diversification in the country?

Well I believe that of the numerous challenges ahead in our country, the greatest lies in diversification beyond the energy sector… the Trinidad and Tobago economy still remains overly dependent on the energy sector. I think that there are also a number of diversification issues to be considered before firms steps can be taken in this area, such as the identification of our export product space and whether any new sectors that might emerge be sufficient to actually reduce the country’s high dependence on energy production. Also there are a number of concerns of the business community including low profitability, infrastructure and crime that need to be addressed to encourage them to get involved in diversification at this time. Apart from agriculture and manufacturing sectors, there are also a lot of other areas that Government can concentrate on for diversification purposes and for raising Trinidad and Tobago’s standard such as film, music and entertainment, fish and fish processing, and yachting, even food and beverage, printing and packaging and they can also look at ICT.

We have been told that Trinidad is one of the few countries in the world that exports people. What is your opinion on the current level of skills in the workforce in Trinidad and Tobago today?

Well firstly let me say that our educational system is really modeled after the British system and produces one of the highest standards of education in the Caribbean.  In fact our estimated literacy rate is over 90%. We are at a stage where there is an integration of education providers such as the University of the West Indies and the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAAT).
Also there is the Multi-Sector Skills Training Program which provides training in construction and hospitality and tourism so that we have individuals who are highly skilled in areas such as masonry, construction, carpentry, welding, plumbing, auto and diesel mechanics to name a few. I believe that Trinidad and Tobago’s increasing oil and gas economy have certainly produced a construction boom and as a result of this you will find that we are actually utilizing our own skilled personnel. There are however instances where our qualified and skilled personnel have left Trinidad to work abroad but a large percentage have in fact remained and are presently working in different areas relative to their skills and qualifications.

Where do you see the country going after the oil and gas runs out? Do you really think the country is diversifying its economy?

Well, as mentioned earlier our economy is overly dependent on the energy sector and the government’s budget is heavily dependent on the revenues from the energy sector and whilst we have began to see a certain amount of diversification, I believe that there is still a long way to go. I think that a suitable strategy would be to expand the supply of non-energy products that face growing demand in world markets. In terms of manufacturing we have seen several companies emerging specializing in chemical and non-metallic material, construction materials, steel products, textiles and garments, and concrete products to name a few, and where agriculture is concerned we are seeing agro-processing and distribution. The construction industry is showing specialized construction activities. There are in fact import duty concessions in place whereby the government offers incentives to local manufacturers for undertaking certain investment projects. The import duty is really to assist with reducing their production costs however I think that not much is being done to make interested parties aware of the assistance available and therefore there should be more public relations to promote this type of information. There are even agricultural incentives for registered farmers, such as duty-relief for a range of agricultural items like wheel tractors, hand tools, small machinery. But I firmly believe that the Government still need to consider looking in other areas of diversification if we are to become a country of the quality and standard that we are hoping to achieve.

What other opportunities do you think there are in the country for an investor?

Actually there are some investment incentives in place that are coordinated through the Ministry of Trade and Industry. These incentives are basically offered to both local and foreign investors for undertaking certain investments projects. Take for example there are the free zones incentives, which have been developed to promote the establishment of companies in Trinidad and Tobago that export the majority of their goods and services. Also there are tax incentives that have also been granted to encourage deepwater drilling. So I would say that the opportunities are out there allowing investors to focus in the areas of warehousing and storing, exporting, importing, assembling, and manufacturing operations just to name a few.

Could you give us an overview of your company’s history?

Certainly. My father started this business in 1976 by acquiring the agencies from reputable companies for their products. As sales surpassed expectations, he acquired other agencies and with his love for rigs and drilling equipment he purchased many production rigs and coil tubing units. Shortly after he entered the arena of drilling and purchased two drilling rigs. Initially all this equipment worked for the national oil company. He quickly gained the reputation of having the most experienced drilling and production crews and with a reputation like this he approached the various foreign drilling contractors to supply labor for their rigs in national and foreign waters.  
As a strong and reliable support of our company we also have our Manager of Finance and Administration Sieunarine Rambhajan who has been with the company for the past 22 years and is a chartered accountant with 36 years experience. He has certainly brought an abundance of knowledge and expertise to the company. In 1995 Rambhajan got the opportunity to branch out when he was also appointed to manage the company’s marketing efforts. Presently our highly committed and efficient management team comprise of myself as Managing Director, Mr. Sieunarine Rambhajan who as I mentioned earlier is our Manager of Finance and Administration, Mrs. Pamela Persad , Director, and Mr. Phillip Moore who is our Director of Operations. We are also supported by a strong support staff. All in all I believe that in Trinidad we could safely boast of being the company that supplied local labor to most of the foreign rigs that drilled in Trinidad.

What have been the success factors behind this?

Our knowledge of the energy sector and the experience of the people who work for us. Also we have a one-on-one relationship with the foreign country managers who operate in Trinidad. As our motto ‘when service depends on quality depend on Lennox’ dictates, we are always ready and willing to assist the foreign companies in all areas of labor management. 
Could you elaborate on the services you can offer?

Definitely. I am proud to say that we are the leading provider of general oilfield contracting services both on land on offshore. In addition to this we are responsible for procuring work permits for foreign personnel involved in Trinidadian operations. We assist in Immigration Services involving visas, visa waivers, extensions and also medicals. Meet and greet services are also offered which would really include hotel accommodation, helicopter and crew boat transport. Other services would include heavy transportation services, transport logistics, equipment rental, water drilling, brokerage services that is import and export of vessels, shipping, welding and fabrication, rental of offices and housing and even of vehicles. And of course we are also heavily involved in the on-shore and off-shore catering services.

How do you train your workforce?

Most of our employees go to well and safety training schools. In the energy sector most of the training is done on the job itself. On a rig an employee with a sound academic qualification may start as a roustabout and could very well be promoted to the heights of a tour pusher or rig manager.

How good are they?

With a good education and willingness to learn we have in our employ some of the best employees in the energy sector.

What policies do you have for top quality?

Our policy provides for, amongst other things, understanding the needs of our customer and providing the service that they need. We are continuously improving our training and hands-on experience and services in order to enhance value for both our clients and employees. We ensure that we always comply with relevant regulatory requirements.

What is your safety and environmental policy?

Actually we just redesigned our entire policy to include our action plans, goals and targets. We have recently become STOW-tt Certified (means Safe to Work in Trinidad and Tobago) and basically follow all of the STOW standards. We have also maintained a membership with TRACE International with its head office based in Annapolis, Maryland, which was founded to really achieve economies of scale and also to set a common standard for two shared elements of anti-bribery compliance that is anti-bribery training for business intermediaries and company employees based all over the world and also due diligence reviews.   
Trace International has the world’s first accreditation program for FCPA Compliance and we are proud to be part of this organization. In fact Lennox Petroleum’s success is based on honesty and integrity and as a committed member we always ensure that we update our due diligence information yearly.

You have people working all over the world. What would you say their standards are like?

Our employees are very experienced in offshore work and have been employed as rig mangers, tool pushers and other highly skilled classes. In fact some of these employees have worked in Africa, the Gulf of Mexico and in the North Sea. In order to work outside of Trinidad their performance must be of a high standard to compete with the nationals of the country and as such we pride ourselves as being the number one provider of highly skilled labor.

And obviously people who go abroad come back to Trinidad.

Most of the employees who have worked all over the world have done so on contract and under a work permit/visa. The visa is dictated by the length of time of the contract and when the contract expires, they would have no other choice but to return to Trinidad.

After four years here in the industry, what would you say is your trademark project?

Most of our projects comprise of the supply of labor to offshore drilling rigs which are owned by different U.S.-based companies and I really cannot single out any project as the best since we have been involved with so many and have provided excellent service and hence the reason we are rated as the number one service company in the world.

Are you also doing project abroad?

Yes, we are. We have water projects going on in St. Lucia, Tobago, Jamaica and Antigua.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is important nowadays. What CSR measures are you implementing here?

Much emphasis is placed on this. We actually have an in-house charity group called Friends of Lennox Petroleum and every year we choose a different charitable organization to assist. We also assist schools in our country and support is given to non-governmental organizations and community groups, which are designed to improve the lives of the disadvantaged sectors of our society. 

What is your opinion on the relations between Trinidad and the U.S.?

I would say that Trinidad and Tobago and the U.S. have always maintained and continue to enjoy cordial relations where the focus continues to be investment and trade. Many U.S. largest corporations now have commercial links with us and have set up offices and operations in our country. I think that our ties have always been strong and even now have grown substantially in the last several years. 

What do you think that American companies should know when they come here?

Well they should have a general knowledge of how to do business in Trinidad and Tobago, which is readily available in a handbook by one of the leading chartered accountant firms in the country. They should also be knowledgeable of all our investment incentives and then there are simple facts that one may take for granted such that we actually drive on the left hand side of the road. Where Lennox Petroleum Services Limited is concerned our reputation speaks for itself. We may not be the cheapest, but we are the most comprehensive one-stop-shop. The range of services does not stop – if we do not do it, we will get someone else to do it.

What is the different between your management style and your father’s?

It has to be technology. He was a hands-on, pick up the phone kind of guy, whilst I actually read my contracts from my BlackBerry and reply and instruct to my lawyers in the same manner. I think technology helps me to get out more often, whilst my dad would remain in office all day, I prefer to actual be out of the office doing networking amongst other business activities.

What is your dream for this company?

It is always open. We actually have three to four potential new areas that we are exploring at the moment – one of which is a federal express courier service that would include document control and flow system much in the same manner as FedEx and UPS – a surface mail and shipping handler. We have also been looking at Medical tourism. Expansion and diversification is imminent and as an opportunity presents itself we would be willing to go in such direction.

How would you brand Trinidad today?

Trinidad is now the business capital of the region.   Our natural resources, financial system, location and communications links have made us the Caribbean’s most secure investment location and dozens of world’s leading corporations are active here. Even though we have been facing our fair share of challenges, Trinidad and Tobago continues to be a remarkable Caribbean island. We are the Land of the Hummingbird and home of Carnival, calypso, chutney, steel band, soca and roti and doubles. We are a country made up of different ethic background and religions. If you seek adventure and excitement in addition to romance and relaxation…I would definitely recommend Trinidad and Tobago.